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Alleged organ theft by Harvard morgue manager sparks lawsuit

Allegations that the former manager sold body parts on the black market prompted a lawsuit for negligence and emotional distress

The son of a US woman whose body was donated to Harvard Medical School (HMS) for scientific research has filed a class-action lawsuit after the university’s former morgue manager was accused of stealing and selling body parts.

Friday’s lawsuit – filed in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston, Massachusetts – could include the families of up to 400 deceased donors.

Earlier this week, a federal grand jury indicted former morgue manager Cedric Lodge and four other defendants on charges of selling donated remains on the black market. They were charged with “conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen goods.”

Friday’s class-action lawsuit, meanwhile, seeks damages for negligence, breach of duty and emotional distress.

“Medical schools like Harvard have a responsibility to make sure [donated remains] to ensure they are handled properly and decently and used for the intended purposes of scientific study,” said Jeff Catalano, a partner at Keches Law Group, which is representing the victims.

“When that duty is breached, the only way to compensate the family is through an emotional distress claim,” he added.

Keches Law Group is representing John Bozek, who believes the body of his mother, Adele Mazzone, was mutilated as part of the scheme.

Lodge, 55, and his wife, Denise Lodge, conspired to sell body parts such as heads, brains, skin and bones to other defendants listed in the federal indictment. Those defendants resold their purchases to other buyers.

Harvard says it fired Lodge on May 6. Deans George Daley and Edward Hundert called the alleged act “morally reprehensible” in a post on the school’s website.

“We are horrified to know something so disturbing could happen on our campus — a community dedicated to healing and serving others,” the message read.

“The reported incidents are a betrayal of HMS and, most importantly, every individual who chooses to donate their body to HMS through the Anatomical Gift Program to advance medical education and research.”

The lodge allowed some potential customers to come to the morgue in person to select which remains they wanted to buy. He allegedly took other body parts home or posted them through the mail.

Endorsements to medical schools, however, are reserved for research or educational purposes only. Once they are used, the remains are often cremated and returned to their families for burial.

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