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Lawsuits & Litigation

Families File Lawsuit Against Harvard After Morgue Scandal Breaks

— June 16, 2023

The families filed the class action after discovering that a former Harvard morgue official had removed, sold, and shipped cadaver body parts across the country.

Harvard Medical School is facing lawsuit after an investigation found that a former morgue official stole, sold, and shipped cadaver parts across the country.

“Plaintiff brings this class action on behalf of himself and all other similarly situated individuals whose family members donated and entrusted their deceased bodies into Harvard’s custody for medical research and academic study and whose cadavers were then mishandled, dissected, and/or sold by the HMS morgue manager,” the lawsuit states.

According to CNN, the families of people who had donated their bodies to science are now filing a class-action lawsuit, alleging that Harvard Medical School breached their trust.

“We started hearing from families of loved ones who selflessly donated their bodies to science before they died,” said attorney Jonathan Sweet, whose firm, Keches Law Group, is representing the class. “In doing so, a trust was formed.”

“This case is about an alleged breach of this trust, which has come to light in a very unfortunate way,” Sweet added.

Gates to Harvard University. Image via Flickr/user:sackton. (CCA-BY-2.0).

The complaint, filed earlier this week in Suffolk County Superior Court in Massachusetts, claims that state and federal law entitles people to be “treated with decency and dignity after death including by not having their bodies mishandled, viewed, dismembered, and/or sold by those entrusted with them.”

The class broadly alleges that Harvard and its former morgue manager, Cedric Lodge, breached their duty of care by failing to take reasonable steps “to ensure that the cadavers were properly handled and maintained for their intended purpose of scientific study and not improperly mishandled, dissected, and/or sold to third parties.”

“This case is about getting to the truth about what happened here,” Sweet told CNN.

“There’s deep wounds that have been opened by recent revelations, and we believe in bringing this case that we can help these families achieve peace and closure to understand exactly what happened,” he added.

While Harvard and its medical school have declined to comment on the lawsuit, two of its deans—George Daley and Edward Hundert—have since called the theft of body parts “an abhorrent betrayal.”

“We are appalled to learn that something so disturbing could happen on our campus — a community dedicated to healing and serving others,” Daley and Hundert wrote in a statement published to Harvard’s website. “The reported incidents are a betrayal of HMS and, most importantly, each of the individuals who altruistically chose to will their bodies to HMS through the Anatomical Gift Program to advance medical education and research.”

The class action is seeking unspecified damages and a jury trial.


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Families affected by Harvard morgue scandal file class action lawsuit

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