After repeated scandals in the UC willed-body programs in which body parts of cadavers were allegedly misplaced and then sold for profit, university officials announced on Jan. 19 that they will be implementing a new system-wide Taskforce on Anatomical Materials.
One of the main objectives of this new taskforce will be to ensure the security and proper handling of cadavers that are donated to the UC for medical research.
UC Vice President of Health Affairs Michael Drake will chair the taskforce and UCI will be one of five campuses whose willed-body program will be participating.
According to Dr. David Taylor, executive director of medical services for the UC Office of the President, the UC is hoping to avoid encountering the same problems experienced during past cadaver scandals at both UCLA and UCI, in which hundreds of cadavers could not be accounted for and were allegedly sold for profit instead of being used for research.
‘The idea is to prevent the ‘misplacement’ [of bodies] in the future [through] improved storage, security, inventory controls, communication, oversight and tracking of materials that are on loan,’ Taylor said.
Some of the security measures being taken include implanting bar codes or radio frequency ID tags in the cadavers, as well as installing video surveillance that will monitor all after-hours activities.
According to Taylor, these changes in oversight of the WBP are already in the process of being implemented at UCI.
‘UCI is involved in all phases,’ Taylor said. ‘The [WBP] at UCI is already an excellent program since it had been redesigned after the 1999 problems. Michael Godfrey, the UCI WBP director, is also working for UCLA, assisting them in their program redesign as part of the UC-wide program.’
UCI recently experienced a lapse in security when a 2000 audit revealed that former Director Christopher Brown had misappropriated money and tried to cover it up in 1999.
In addition, other allegations were made against Brown, including that he had sold body parts and mishandled human remains.
The 29-page report revealed that Brown had performed an unauthorized autopsy for a relative’s sociology class, improperly solicited cash donations and overcharged the program for travel expenses.
In a letter accompanying the audit, Dean of the UCI College of Medicine Thomas Cesario denied allegations that Brown had sold any body parts.
‘The initial investigation … revealed issues regarding the misuse of university assets, conflicts of interest and lack of internal controls,’ Cesario said. ‘[However, the] audit found no evidence that donated bodies were used for anything other than scientific research or academic purposes.’
After this scandal broke at UCI, around the same time the WBP at UCLA was being shut down for similar problems, university officials asked former Gov. George Deukmejian to design a reform plan for all UC willed-body programs.
According to Drake, the University of California has hired Navigant Consulting to help create such a plan under which an anatomic advisory board would be created, as well as more frequent reviews by auditors and university officials in order to detect any wrongdoings in the future.
Drake said that the university has already spent upwards of $300,000 and is anticipating spending close to $1 million total in order to implement reforms.
According to Taylor, the university hopes to have all reforms in place as early as May and is in the process of recruiting a firm to help oversee the changes.
‘We have completed several phases and are embarked on the implementation of reforms,’ Taylor said. ‘A new database will be created and bids are [already] being developed.’