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Class Action Settlement Reached in Lawsuit Over Human Tissue Samples

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Previously I have blogged about the cases we are handing on behalf of recipients of transplanted human tissue stolen from cadavers without authorization from the deceased or consent from their family members. In these cases, the billion dollar a year human tissue industry shortcutted required screening processes which would have revealed that many of the unwitting tissue donors were not viable donors. As a result the recipients are now at risk for multiple infectious diseases. This, however, is not the only circumstance where surviving families have been mislead as to their loved ones remains.

A former Los Alamos pathologist has agreed to pay $800,000 in a final settlement over tissue samples taken in secret from hundreds of bodies at Los Alamos Medical Center in a Cold War-era study into radiation. Stewart was involved in a program in which pathologists at the hospital provided Los Alamos National Laboratory with tissue samples from hearts, livers, brains and other organs. Families who signed autopsy release forms were not told of the study nor were they told the tissue would end up in the hands of government scientists, the lawsuit said. The medical center and the University of California, which ran the lab at the time, agreed to settle their part of the lawsuit in 2001. More than 400 families shared $9.5 million under that settlement.

The bottom line is that it is illegal for any person or institution to alter the state of a deceased loved one without the written consent of the deceased or authorization from the surviving heirs.