- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 3, 2002

DALLAS Federal agents in Galveston are closely examining records at the University of Texas Medical Branch after the school admitted the possibility that body parts in its Willed Body Program were sold.
A routine audit recently determined there was a possibility that some of the bodies willed to the institution for research had been sold by one of those assigned to handle the delicate program.
That same audit concluded that many of the ashes from the donated bodies had been commingled and that relatives may have received a mix of several people's ashes.
Dr. John D. Stobo, president of UTMB, announced the problems in an open letter on the institution's Web page Monday, calling the recent discovery "a regrettable situation" and said the medical facility had committed "an unforgivable failure of oversight in dealing with the cremation of bodies willed to UTMB."
Bob Dogium, an FBI spokesman from Houston, said UTMB had been giving the agency "complete cooperation."
At a press conference yesterday, medical school officials said they had been contacting donors' families to explain what had happened.
The FBI said no charges had been filed.
The Houston Chronicle reported that a 56-year-old Galveston man a person responsible for receiving and shipping all body parts to other medical research facilities had been fired in early May, a direct result of the audit findings.
Dr. Stobo, though not naming the man fired, said in his open letter that the audit "suggested" the fired employee had been "diverting university resources for personal financial gain."
Officials at the facility a leading research center since 1891 said the Willed Body Program receives about 300 bodies a year. Since the students and researchers at the facility use only about half of those, the rest are shipped to various research entities throughout the nation.
Dr. Stobo said he realized that the disclosures would harm the school's reputation, but that once the situation was uncovered, the school moved rapidly to inform authorities and ask the FBI to probe deeper.
"Our highest priority now," he said, "is to those whose loved ones chose to make an invaluable contribution to medical education and research, and we will do everything we possibly can to help them through this time of understandable grief, anger and uncertainty."
The firing of the program director, Allen Tyler Jr., of Galveston, was mentioned at yesterday's press conference, said Doris White, public affairs spokesman for UTMB.
"People had read about it and wanted to know more," she said.
The catalyst seemed to be a story in a Riverside, Calif., newspaper in February that quoted Mr. Tyler as saying he had been paid $2,500 and expenses for weekends spent dismembering bodies for a company there whose owner had been accused of brokering in body parts. Mr. Tyler told the Riverside reporter he thought the company there was legitimate.
Mrs. White said that arrangement had nothing to do with UTMB. "That was strictly outside employment," she said.
It is not known exactly what triggered the audit, though the California article "didn't set real well with folks here," said one doctor.
He added that the facility's records had been a source of concern for several years.
Mr. Tyler did not return telephone calls yesterday.
He had been an employee of the institution for 40 years his last position was supervisor of anatomical services.
The FBI spokesman, Mr. Dogium, said if anyone was selling bodies or parts donated to the medical facility, the suspect could be charged with mail fraud or wire fraud.


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