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Three ‘heartbroken’ families file class-action lawsuit over human remains stolen from Harvard Medical School morgue

Harvard Medical School's Anatomical Gift Program.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Three “heartbroken families” of deceased people whose remains were allegedly pilfered from the morgue at Harvard Medical School filed a class-action lawsuit Wednesday against the university and its medical school, following a related lawsuit filed by a Tewksbury man.

The law firm of Morgan & Morgan filed suit in Suffolk Superior Court on behalf of the families of Glenn Wilder Sr., Marshall Jolotta, and Joseph Gagne, the firm said in a statement.

The law firm said the suit was also filed on behalf of “all the families affected by this senseless tragedy to seek justice, accountability, and shine a light in the hopes no other family will ever have to endure such horror ever again.”


Earlier this month, the medical school’s former morgue manager, Cedric Lodge, was charged with orchestrating the sale of body parts taken from cadavers at the morgue, and allowing others from outside the university to enter the morgue and choose human remains for purchase. Several others have also been charged in connection with the scheme.

The defendants allegedly stole and sold remains of people who had donated their bodies to the medical school for teaching and research purposes as part of Harvard’s Anatomical Gift Program.

“Harvard University and Harvard Medical School do not comment on pending or ongoing litigation,” a spokesperson for the medical school said Wednesday.

On June 14, medical school deans George Daley and Edward Hundert called the theft of body parts “morally reprehensible.”

“We are appalled to learn that something so disturbing could happen on our campus — a community dedicated to healing and serving others,” the deans wrote in a message posted on the school’s website. “The reported incidents are a betrayal of HMS and, most importantly, each of the individuals who altruistically chose to will their bodies to HMS through the Anatomical Gift Program to advance medical education and research.”


The 37-page civil complaint filed Wednesday accuses Harvard of an “unthinkable, unconscionable breach of trust.”

“To their absolute shock and horror, the families who placed this deep trust in Defendants have learned that, instead of caring properly for and protecting the remains entrusted to them, Defendants abandoned them in a facility that was a place of freakish desecration, where, according to the indictments, criminals were allowed to roam and pick over loved ones’ remains for bits like trinkets at a flea market.”

The lawsuit filed Wednesday comes after a related lawsuit, filed June 16 in Suffolk Superior Court by a Tewksbury man whose mother donated her remains to the medical school. The lawsuit asserted the remains may have been among the body parts that were allegedly stolen and sold.

That suit, filed by Tewksbury resident John Bozek, seeks to represent an estimated 350 to 400 families whose loved ones donated their bodies to the school. It alleges negligence, breach of duty, and infliction of emotional stress by the university.

Harvard has set up a website for affected families and “has appointed an external panel of experts to evaluate our Anatomical Gift Program and morgue policies and practices, with the goal of providing constructive feedback and recommendations to improve security for the program and for the generous whole-body donations it receives,” the deans said in their statement this month.

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at