Doctor Charged With Dealing in Human Remains
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ An ear, nose and throat doctor and four pathologist’s assistants have been charged in an alleged scheme to sell human heads and other body parts to research institutions for a profit.
The five surrendered Wednesday, said District Attorney Ron Castille.
The investigation began in August when United Parcel Service workers in Louisville, Ky., found five heads in a leaky box marked aerosol. The box, bound for the Colorado Otologic Research Center in Denver, bore the doctor’s return address.
Castille said the five face charges of abuse of corpse, theft, conspiracy and receiving stolen property, and of violating the state health code.
Dr. Martin Spector, 70, is accused of buying the body parts from the four pathologist’s assistants - two from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, one from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and one from a Veterans Administration Hospital in west Philadelphia - who took the parts from corpses that had been donated to science or were unclaimed by relatives, Castille said.
The university said it fired medical school morgue employees Lynwood Summers, 56, of Franklinville, N.J., and Wilbert Richardson, 58, of Chester, on Wednesday.
The VA Hospital said Reuben Whitehead, 53, of Philadelphia, will be dismissed next week. Leonard Stephens, 60, of Philadelphia, was relieved of his duties at Jefferson on Wednesday pending the outcome of the case, a hospital spokeswoman said.
″We are deeply disturbed that university procedures and common rules of human dignity have been violated,″ said Dr. Lourence Earley, senior associate dean of the Penn Medical School. ″Additional safeguards have been instituted, and all our procedures are under thorough review.″
Detective Capt. Robert Grasso, chief of homicide, said investigators believe Spector paid $50 to $100 a head and ″probably received payment of $200 each. We have no idea how many parts were shipped.″
Grasso said that from 1983 until the operation was discovered, Spector dealt exclusively with the Denver center, ″but we have other evidence going back to 1976 that some parts went to other institutions.″
The Colorado center, which provides postgraduate study for doctors in microsurgical specialties, has acknowledged it often received body parts from private sources through UPS and other delivery services.
Penn said Wednesday its medical center is seeking to have Spector stripped of his hospital admitting privileges, which have been suspended since Aug. 18.
State law forbids the separation of body parts and their shipment out of the state. The charges carry up to 7 1/2 years in prison and large fines, authorities said.