Monday, March 20, 2006
Fears of contaminated bone and skin grafts are being felt by unsuspecting patients following the revelation that funeral homes may have been looting corpses.
Janet Evans of Marion, Ohio was told by her surgeon, “The bone grafts you got might have been contaminated”. She reacted with shock, “I was flabbergasted because I didn’t even know what he was talking about. I didn’t know I got a bone graft until I got this call. I just thought they put in screws and rods.”
The body of Alistair Cooke, the former host of Masterpiece Theatre, was supposedly looted along with more than 1,000 others, according to two law enforcement officials close to the case. The tissue taken was typically skin, bone and tendon, which was then sold for use in procedures such as dental implants and hip replacements. According to authorities, millions of dollars were made by selling the body parts to companies for use in operations done at hospitals and clinics in the United States and Canada.
A New Jersey company, Biomedical Tissue Services, has reportedly been taking body parts from funeral homes across Brooklyn, New York. According to ABC News, they set up rooms like a “surgical suite.” After they took the bones, they replaced them with PVC pipe. This was purportedly done by stealth, without approval of the deceased person or the next of kin. 1,077 bodies were involved, say prosecutors.
Investagators say a former dentist, Michael Mastromarino, is behind the operation. Biomedical was considered one of the “hottest procurement companies in the country,” raking in close to $5 million. Eventually, people became worried: “Can the donors be trusted?” A tissue processing company called LifeCell answered no, and issued a recall on all their tissue.
Cooke’s daughter, Susan Cooke Kittredge, said, “To know his bones were sold was one thing, but to see him standing truncated before me is another entirely.” Now thousands of people around the country are receiving letters warning that they should be tested for infectious diseases like HIV or hepatitis. On February 23, the Brooklyn District Attorney indicted Mastromarino and three others. They are charged with 122 felony counts, including forgery and bodysnatching.