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Families 'disgusted' remains of deceased loved ones might have been sold on black market in Harvard Medical School scandal
Jack Porter (Image Source: WBTS-CD video screenshot)

Families 'disgusted' remains of deceased loved ones might have been sold on black market in Harvard Medical School scandal

Families were "disgusted" to learn that the remains of their deceased loved ones may have been sold on the black market following reports that a former Harvard Medical School morgue manager and six others were arrested for allegedly running an underground human remains trafficking operation.

What's the background?

Last week, seven individuals were charged for allegedly stealing human remains from mortuaries to sell them online.

Cedric Lodge, 55, previously worked as Harvard Medical School's morgue manager from 2018 through 2022. According to the FBI, he stole body parts from cadavers donated to medical research.

Harvard Medical School released a statement last week calling the alleged actions "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," the school said. "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."

Families respond

Jack Porter, a research associate at Harvard, reacted to a letter from the medical school informing him that his late wife's remains may have been stolen and sold.

According to Porter, the dean of the faculty of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Dr. George Daley, wrote, "We have been working with information supplied by federal authorities and examining our records, particularly the logs showing when donor remains were sent to be cremated and when Lodge was on campus, to try to determine which donors may have been impacted."

"At this time, we cannot rule out the potential that Raya Porter's remains may have been impacted," the letter stated, according to Porter.

Porter told the Boston Herald, "What bothers me is that there's somebody in some basement somewhere in this country or elsewhere fondling my wife's body parts."

"It could be her brain, her skin, her bones. This is disgusting and this is why there should be a severe punishment," he added.

Porter's wife passed away due to colon cancer in late 2017. Her body was donated to science and placed in the custody of Harvard Medical School.

Porter received his wife's cremated remains in 2019, but now he is unsure whether some of her remains were stolen.

"I believe that they can recover some of these parts," he said. "All of us who are family members believe it's a horrible thing that happened."

When asked what he would say to the alleged criminals, Porter told WBTS-CD, "I would say, you guys are sick. You've got to look at yourself and face your family and friends, and you are going to be ostracized for the rest of your life."

"It's so deviant, I just pity the person. I don't have any anger against them. I just pity them for what they did," he stated.

Paula Peltonovich was informed that her deceased father's remains were stolen and sold on the black market. Now she is demanding that the medical school return her mother's remains.

Peltonovich told the Boston Globe, "We were just disgusted — sick, like we were going to throw up."

"It's just unthinkable. There's no words," she added.

According to a Harvard employee, many of the families who were informed their loved ones' remains might have been stolen and sold were too upset to speak publicly, the Boston Herald reported.

"Most of the families are in deep anger or deep anguish," he said.

Keches Law Group filed a class-action lawsuit on Friday against Lodge and the president and fellows of Harvard College. It seeks "monetary damages for the severe emotional distress caused."

Jonathan Sweet of Keches Law Group stated that 350 to 400 cadavers were believed to be impacted by the underground human remains trafficking scandal.

"This case is about getting to the truth of what happened there, how it could happen for such a long time, how it could happen with apparent minimal oversight, and how the manager of the morgue had apparent free rein to operate without oversight," Sweet stated. "We hope to bring to these families by filing this lawsuit a second closure."

Harvard Medical School told WBTS that it does not comment on pending litigation.

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