This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

Former head of Willed Body Program sentenced to jail

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The former director of UCLA’s Willed Body Program was sentenced on Jan. 30 to four years and four months in prison for illegally selling — and personally profiting from the sale of — body parts that had been donated to UCLA for medical research and education. Henry Reid, 59, was also ordered by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Curtis Rappe to pay $500,000 in compensation to the David Geffen School of Medicine.

Reid pleaded guilty last October to conspiracy to commit grand theft and the special allegation that he damaged property exceeding $1 million. Reid was accused with co-defendant Ernest Nelson, whose trial is still pending. The owner of a private business that supplied hospitals and pharmaceutical companies with corpses and body parts for medical research, Nelson is charged with buying body parts from Reid between 1999 and 2004. Reid will cooperate with the prosecution in Nelson’s upcoming trial.

Reid and Nelson were arrested on March 7, 2007, by the UCLA Police Department (UCPD) after a lengthy investigation into allegations that the men participated in a scheme to profit from selling body parts from cadavers willed to the medical school. The initial allegations surfaced in 2004. It took years of work by UCPD detectives, working with the D.A.’s office, to gather all the evidence in this case to support a successful prosecution.

“The work of the UCLA investigators was the key component in ensuring a successful prosecution,” said UCPD Chief Karl Ross. “I want to acknowledge their excellent work for almost five years to ensure that justice is served.”

The University of California voluntarily suspended the program at UCLA in March 2004. A task force was assembled, under the leadership of former Gov. and Attorney General George Deukmejian, to conduct a management review of all five programs and develop guidelines to prevent such misconduct from occurring again.

In October 2005, Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Bruce E. Mitchell gave UCLA the go-ahead to restart its program, which was renamed the Donated Body Program.

Improvements include increased centralization — including a UCOP position to oversee the program — to coordinate donor information at all five medical centers.

According to Dean Fisher, director of the UCLA Donated Body Program, a new “digital donor library” Web database fosters total transparency between all five programs as well as with UCOP.

Upgraded security procedures include extensive financial and criminal background checks of potential employees, a system of checks and balances for security card access to certain areas of the laboratories, and video surveillance at all the sites.

“UCLA has taken steps to establish the best security system in the country,” said Fisher, who previously served as director of anatomical bequests to the Department of Anatomy for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.“I have never seen anything this detailed.”

In addition, UCLA has installed a new, high-tech tracking system that closely monitors anatomical materials from the time of donation to final disposition. The system uses a radio frequency identification system that IDs a specimen with the scan of a sensor.

“We are pleased to move forward in a very positive way,” said Fisher, who noted that interest in making donations is on the rise. “Obviously we’re doing the right things,” he said. “We’re moving in a positive direction.”
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