I-Team: Cook County Morgue donates 50+ bodies to medical schools without proper authorization

May 23, 2013 8:51:24 AM PDT
Dozens of bodies were taken from the Cook County morgue without permission and donated to science, in some cases even without the knowledge of relatives, the ABC7 I-Team has learned.

Those are among the findings of a scathing report by the Cook County public administrator.

According to the report, part of a letter to county and state officials, more than 50 corpses were improperly taken from the morgue and delivered to medical schools where they were dissected, used for teaching and classroom experiments. The findings reveal cases in which family members did not given permission or even know that the bodies had been removed and were used for experiments or teaching.

For nearly a decade at the Cook County Morgue, only a few cadavers were made available to medical schools for dissection and research use. Last September, when newly hired county medical examiner Dr. Stephen Cina started, that practice changed.

Under an agreement with the Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois, dozens of indigent remains were once again provided for medical research. The use of cadavers is considered a staple of teaching how the human body works.

Cook County Public Administrator Nicholas Grapsas, a former criminal prosecutor, says the practice quickly spun out of control at the morgue creating a "serious breach." In the letter sent to the county president, commissioners and state officials, Grapsas says that the AGA erroneously claimed remains from the morgue, and didn't provide proper notice, therefore violating its agreement with Cook County.

Grapsas claims that that the AGA removed 59 bodies with no "notice whatsoever from AGA" and that some corpses were improperly removed after being in the morgue for only a few days- hardly enough time for families to even be notified.

The county's unclaimed body agreement states that 14 days after the AGA takes possession if the medical examiner can't find next of kin; the AGA provides a receipt for body; then publishes public notice in a newspaper to further alert next of kin and holds the remains for 60 days before sending off to a med school.

The rules were not followed in all cases according to the public administrator. In a statement Medical Examiner Cina says "we continue to work with representatives from the public administrator's office to determine indigent status. The AGA also is responsible for communicating with the public administrator, according to the terms of the [agreement]."

The director of the Anatomical Gift Association told the I-Team: "We screwed up," by not providing proper notification that those 59 bodies were being taken. He blames it on the confusion of new people working at his not-for-profit and at the M.E.'s office. Regardless, this comes after the I-Team first exposed unrelated problems at the morgue, with bodies stacked up and decaying.

Read a letter from the Cook County Public Administrator concerning problems with bodies being taken from the county morgue without proper authorizationhere. Memorandum of Understanding by and between the County Of Cook and The Anatomical Gift Association Of Illinois:
http://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/254332/09-10me-agreement-with-aga.pdf
Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois:
http://agaillinois.org/


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