The University of Texas Medical Branch here in Houston is apologizing for the actions of a former employee who may have sold donated body parts for profit, and for accidentally mixing up the ashes of cremated bodies:
Federal agents are investigating allegations that an employee at the University of Texas Medical Branch illegally sold body parts for his own gain, an FBI spokesman said Monday.
And, in what UTMB President Dr. John Stobo called "an unforgivable failure of oversight," officials at the medical school said they have discovered that the cremated remains of many people who willed their bodies to science were mixed.
The problems were revealed in a management audit of UTMB's Willed Body Program that began in March and resulted in the May 9 firing of Allen Tyler Jr., 56, of Galveston.
Tyler was responsible for receiving and shipping all bodies and body parts at the medical school, as well as for dismembering bodies and shipping parts to other research facilities across the state and nation, according to a document obtained by the Houston Chronicle.
The Willed Body Program receives an average of 300 bodies a year, officials say, only about half of which are used by medical students and researchers at the Galveston medical center.
Under direction of the Anatomical Board of the State of Texas, UTMB can ship cadavers and body parts to medical schools and research facilities in other states, but not for profit.
The FBI is investigating whether an employee at the center was running an illegal body-part brokering operation, Houston FBI spokesman Bob Doguim said.
"There may have been someone inside that program who was selling those body parts," Doguim said.
He did not mention Tyler but said officials at the medical center had asked the FBI to investigate its Willed Body Program.
Stobo said Monday that UTMB requested the investigation when Tyler was fired.