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County Morgue donates 50+ bodies to medical schools without proper authorization

Wednesday, May 22, 2013
by Chuck Goudie

The Cook County Public Administrator says the practice of donating bodies to science quickly spun out of control.

According to records from the Cook County Public Administrator, in many cases family members did not given permission or even know that the bodies had been removed and used for experiments or teaching.

For nearly a decade at the Cook County Morgue, bodies were not made available to medical schools for dissection and research use. Last September, when newly-hired county medical examiner Dr. Stephen Cina started, that policy changed.

Under an agreement with the Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois, once again indigent remains were provided to medical schools. 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 this letter sent to the county president, commissioners and state officials, Grapsas says that the anatomical gift association erroneously claimed remains from the morgue, and didn't provide proper notice, therefore violating their agreement with Cook County. Grapsas claims that that the AGA removed 59 bodies with no "notice whatsoever from AGA" and that some corpses were 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 tonight 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 tonight says,"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 a little more than a year after the I-Team first exposed unrelated problems at the morgue, with bodies stacked up and decaying.

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