UCLA Stops Taking Donated Bodies

Amid an internal probe into the alleged illegal sale of body parts, the University of California, Los Angeles, has agreed to stop accepting donated cadavers, a lawyer for the university said.

Officials with the medical school said the willed body program will hold bodies already donated for medical research and education in cold storage while the internal investigation continues.

"Whether or not UCLA (search) will restart the program is a decision that has not been made at this time and will not be made for some period of time. It is being examined," UCLA attorney Louis Marlin said after a Superior Court hearing Tuesday.

Marlin said the move, incorporated into a restraining order Tuesday, was needed to reassure anyone whose family members had willed their body to the university or anyone planning to.

"This was done ... in order to protect all of those interests, and in light of the grave concerns that UCLA has for the family members," he said.

As part of the deal, officials agreed that students in the gross anatomy lab would be able to continue to use 25 to 30 bodies. The university said it will not accept more bodies without Superior Court Commissioner Bruce Mitchell's approval.

The hearing was for a lawsuit filed in 1996 by relatives of people whose bodies had been donated to the university for medical research. The suit charged that thousands of cadavers had been illegally disposed of.

That was separate from a lawsuit filed Monday in Superior Court, which seeks class-action status and claims that Henry Reid (search), director of UCLA's willed body program, was illegally selling body parts and university officials knew about it. Reid was hired in 1997.

Reid and Ernest Nelson (search), 46 — not a university employee — were arrested during the weekend for investigation of trafficking in stolen body parts. Both men were released after posting bail.

Attorney Raymond Boucher, who represents several family members, praised the deal but chided the university for failing to rein in the program when similar allegations arose in 1996.

The university has promised an independent audit of the willed body program to be led by former California Gov. George Deukmejian (search).