Story By: Joseph Golder, Sub Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Central European News
It has been claimed that corpses donated to science at a top medical university in Paris that are making headlines for having been eaten by rats and infested with fly eggs were also being sold to private companies for profit and used in “crash tests.”
It has also been claimed that “there was trafficking going on” with “body parts” being sold “on Saturday mornings to surgeons, who took them away. Everything was for sale.”
The Universite Rene Descartes Paris has now announced the closure of its donation centre in the wake of the scandal that is rocking the French capital.
The university, which is famous in the French medical world for its high standards, is being rocked by a scandal involving allegations that it had been storing bodies donated to science in appalling conditions for decades, with some even being eaten by rats, being left to rot and being unceremoniously stacked on top of one another before being incinerated once they were unusable.
As well as leaving corpses to rot – instead of being used to teach students or conduct medical research – the ‘Centre du don des corps – Paris Descartes’ (Corpse donation centre; CDC) is also under fire for allegedly selling cadavers to private enterprise for 420 to 900 EUR (357 to 766 GBP) per corpse.
Audit company KPMG has been quoted by L’Express – who broke the story on Tuesday 26th November revealing the atrocious conditions corpses had been kept in – as saying that private organisations contributed 75 percent of the centre’s turnover in 2013.
Professor Guy Vallancien, head of the CDC from 2004 to 2014, reportedly told L’Express that “There was trafficking going on. The preparers resold body parts on Saturday morning to surgeons, who took them away. Everything was for sale.”
This allegedly went on without the consent of the deceased or their loved ones, when they were supposed to have been used exclusively for research or to train the next generation of the country’s doctors.
The situation was allegedly ongoing up to just a few days ago and had apparently been common for decades. The centre was also allegedly never modernised, not since it first opened in 1953.
The situation reportedly worsened in 2013, leading to Professor Richard Douard writing a 27-page report to the head of the university, Frederic Dardel, in 2016, describing the deplorable conditions.
The Rene Descartes University published a message on Wednesday on its website in which they apologised to affected family members of deceased people who had donated their bodies to the centre.
L’Express have reportedly seen photographs, which have not been published, which are said to show corpses in the middle of rooms, surrounded by indescribable clutter, “dismembered” bodies, a head that “was on the ground”. The same report mentions “dilapidated and inadequate” facilities, “non-hermetic cold rooms, with repeated failures” and the “proliferation of mice and of flies, with spawning eggs”.
Since the scandal first broke on Tuesday evening after L’Express published the shocking allegations, local media have reported testimony from witnesses who appear to support the allegations. L’Express report that Professor Christian Vacher, a chief surgeon from the Beaujon hospital in Clichy, was working on a corpse with students as late as Tuesday 19th November.
An unnamed head of a clinic who was present said the corpse was particularly “damaged”, that one of its ears was “putrefied” “beyond recognition”. Vacher reportedly saw the ear and told everyone present not to touch it.
On Wednesday (27th November), Jerome Marty, the President of the French Union for a Free Medicine (Union francaise pour une medecine libre; UFML), announced on France Info radio that his union would be filing a complaint.
Marty said: “While alive, the person says: I bequeath my body to science. And their body was not used, either because it was eaten by rats or mice or because it rotted before it was used, or because it was redirected for other purposes, such as performing in crash tests!”
He added: “People who did not say anything, who let it go, are in my opinion totally guilty and this case deeply affects the reputation of this profession, I fear that it harms the profession and French anatomical science.”
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