One of the most bizarre cases to hit the headlines recently has been about body snatching. Science fiction, this is not. Unbelievably horrible, it is. Dealing with death, funerals, and cremation can be emotionally gut-wrenching enough but what happens when after you thought your loved one was laid to rest, the district attorney calls to inform you otherwise. This painful scenario is exactly what happened to hundreds of New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania families who learned that their dead loved ones were secretly carved up and robbed of skin, teeth, and cadaver bones before burial or cremation.
Biomedical Tissue Services, a now-defunct human tissue bank located in Fort Lee, New Jersey, collaborated with crematoriums and funeral homes in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York tri-state area, paying them princely sums of money in order to blindly look the other way while illegally dissecting human skin and tissue, teeth, and cadaver bones. Funeral Homes like Louis Garzone Funeral Home, Philadelphia, Daniel George & Son, Brooklyn, English Brothers Funeral Home, Brooklyn, New York Mortuary Service Inc., Thomas E. Burger Funeral Home in Hilton, New York, Profetta Funeral Chapel, which has sites in Webster and Irondequoit, and Serenity Hills Funeral Chapel, Rochester are alleged to be part of the BTS problem. Stolen cadaver bones are an unethical practice driven by financial greed.
Researchers' need for stolen body parts runs high. A cadaver and its parts could be worth as much as $200,000 depending on the age of the body. Dealing with stolen body parts is a new kind of human trafficking especially for children, teens, and young adults who disappear and whose bodies are never found. On October 26, 2005, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that recipients of tissues recovered by Biomedical Tissue Services (BTS) be tested for evidence of infection with HIV, hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and syphilis. On August 30, 2006, CDC and FDA made the same recommendation for testing of recipients of tissues recovered by Donor Referral Services or Raleigh, N.
C. Patients who have implants must rely on the hospital or doctor to be notified of where the implant came from. Because of this ghoulish debacle, the Safe Tissue Act was signed into law in April 2006. The FDA will have tighter restraints on tissue recovery companies with inspections not less than once every two years. The FDA will conduct periodic audits ensuring that tissue products are obtained legally; that donor eligibility and medical history is based on accurate information; and that companies are employing good tissue removal and storage practices. The FDA is also advising on a model consent form for acquiring tissue.
A number of law firms have been filing lawsuits against the funeral homes and tissue companies on behalf of family members whose loved ones' body parts were illegally stolen and sold for profit. Those in the class action lawsuit received tainted bone and dental implants. Although these tainted implants have not yet manifested any diseases, they were improperly obtained from old, diseased, infectious, and perhaps the terminally ill. Time will tell what lies ahead as far as their physical and medical ramifications.
Philadelphia law firm Anapol Schwartz has a long history as a "personal injury" firm; however a closer look reveals that the firm has grown through diversification, while maintaining a tradition of excellence. Anapol Schwartz now handles a wider range of cases, including a variety of class-action suits. For more information on the class action suit in this article, contact Philadelphia attorney Lawrence R. Cohen, Esq.