- The Washington Times - Monday, March 8, 2004

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The University of California at Los Angeles illegally sold the body parts of people who had donated their corpses for medical research, donors’ relatives charged in a lawsuit filed yesterday.

The suit, which seeks class-action status, comes after the arrest of two men who reputedly sold the corpses and body parts for profit. It asserts that the director of the university’s Willed Body Program, Henry Reid, had been illegally selling body parts for years with the knowledge of other University of California officials. UCLA has denied knowing about the sales.

Attorneys representing the family members said they received documents from UCLA promising that the body parts would never be sold. The lawyers noted that such sales would violate state law.

According to a statement yesterday by the lawyers, Mr. Reid was involved in “turning donations into illicit profit.”

“UCLA and the regents have known for many years that the Willed Body Program was spinning out of control,” the statement said.

Mr. Reid, 54, was arrested Saturday for investigation of grand theft for reputedly selling corpses and body parts for profit. He was released from jail after posting bail and has declined to comment.

Ernest V. Nelson, 46, was arrested for investigation of receiving stolen property. A UCLA statement said Mr. Nelson, who also posted bail and was released, is not a university employee.

Mr. Nelson said he acted as a middle man for six years, retrieving body parts from the UCLA Medical School’s freezer and selling them to research companies.

He said Mr. Reid and other UCLA employees knew about his work.

“I call one of the most prestigious universities in the world, their director gives me the protocol, I follow that protocol and they charge me with receiving stolen body parts?” Mr. Nelson told the Los Angeles Times for yesterday’s editions.

He said that he collected the body parts by simply walking into the UCLA Medical Center twice a week with a saw and taking them. Over the past six years, he said, he cut up approximately 800 cadavers and took knees, hands, torsos, heads and other parts, which he sold to as many as 100 clients.

UCLA attorney Louis Marlin denied that the university knew that the donated bodies intended for its medical students and research programs were being cut up and sold to others. He said Mr. Nelson paid for the parts he took with cashier’s checks made out to Mr. Reid.

“For Nelson to say that other people knew what he was doing is ridiculous,” Mr. Marlin said, adding those involved were hiding their activity from the university.

One other UCLA employee who is also believed to have accepted money for body parts has been placed on leave. That person has not been identified or arrested.

Mr. Marlin said Mr. Nelson himself brought the situation to light when he filed a claim against the university for $241,000 for body parts he said he paid for and was then ordered to return. This prompted the investigation.

Mr. Marlin said the university was still investigating how many cadavers Mr. Nelson may have dismembered, but he added that the number couldn’t possibly have been as high as 800.

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