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More families sue Harvard over mortuary director charged with selling body parts

The families of three Massachusetts residents who willed their bodies to Harvard Medical School yesterday sued Harvard over what might have happened to those bodies under the care of a school mortuary director now facing federal charges of selling off various body parts to a ring of creepy collectors.

The families, who filed their suit in Suffolk Superior Court, are seeking to become the lead plaintiffs in a class action against Harvard over the fate of bodies that were supposed to only be used for medical education and research, then cremated and returned to survivors, rather than becoming what the suit calls macabre "trinkets at a flea market."

A judge might have to decide who becomes the lead plaintiffs - and attorneys - in the case, because other families, represented by a different lawyer, filed similar cases earlier this month.

Unlike those cases, the latest suit does not name mortuary director Cedric Lodge, but instead concentrates on blaming Harvard for letting Lodge get away with selling everything from skin to brains - allegedly sometimes running open houses where ring members visited the morgue to select parts.

Harvard made the choice to exposed hundreds of unprotected, entirely vulnerable remains, including the remains of Glenn Wilder, Sr, Marshall Jolotta and Joseph Gagne, to this predator without performing reasonable, appropriate background checks, screening or reference checks and without putting in place appropriate and reasonable supervision and monitoring ...

Because of the choices Harvard made about its selection, training and supervision of its staff, instead of a solemn, dignified place of respect and learning, the Harvard morgue was a haven for predators - a place where one could abuse the unprotected remains of loved ones in the worst possible way without any fear of detection of prevention.

The suit says Glenn Wilder a lifelong Scituate resident, told his family as he was dying of lung cancer that he wanted to will his body, "the bastion of excellence," in the hopes it could provide clues to help researchers "save someone else from the kind of suffering he was enduring" until his death in 2019. Harvard gave the family what it said were his cremated remains, his son, Glenn Jr. put them in the office of the family business so that "he could still go to work with his dad every day," the complaint says.

Marshall Jolatta, who also died of cancer, in 2017 in Newburyport, donated his body to "help make young doctors better" and chose Harvard "based on Harvard's outstanding reputation, often joking with some pride that he was going to be the first in his family to go to Harvard," the complaint states. What Harvard said were his cremated remains were given to his family, which mingled them with his wife's remains and then scattered them on family property so that "they could rest in peace together."

Joseph Gagne of Leominster, who died in 2018, thought it important that "he be able, with his last generous act, to help new doctors, to be part of educating medical students and to provide what help he could for the good of all." What Harvard said was his cremated remains now sits on a mantel in his daughter Cynthia's home.

The suit does not allege that the three men's bodies were actually among the ones allegedly desecrated by Lodge and his crew, but said that, in any case, their remains:

Were among those abandoned in and subjected to a horror house of desecration and disrespect and left in the unsupervised and unrestricted hands of a criminal who used the remains for personal gain and without regard to the person the remains had been in life or the family who still loved, missed and grieved [them].

One of the suit's demands is for Harvard to provide as full an accounting as possible of just whose bodies the ring carved out pieces from. In an apology posted after Lodge and others were indicted, two Harvard Medical School deans wrote:

We have been working with information supplied by federal authorities and examining our own records, particularly the logs showing when donor remains were sent to be cremated and when Lodge was on campus, to try to determine which anatomical donors may have been impacted. Federal authorities continue to investigate, and additional information may emerge.

The suit also seeks damages for emotional distress, unjust enrichment, tortious interference with remains and breach of fiduciary duty.

Complete complaint (1.4M PDF).



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If so, Cedrick would have likely run afoul of the penal codes, and he would be facing a long stretch.

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And now there are lamp shades made of Grandma's skin. Or imagine hearing about the things done to the body of your child.

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