Former Harvard morgue worker likened himself to 'Grim Reaper,' new lawsuit claims

Boston-based Harvard Medical School is now facing at least three lawsuits related to allegations that a former employee at the school's morgue stole and sold human remains from bodies donated for medical research, the Boston Herald reported July 15. 

On June 14, federal officials announced the indictment and arrest of Cedric Lodge, Harvard's former morgue manager, and several other individuals. Mr. Lodge is accused of stealing and selling human remains from bodies donated to Harvard for medical research. According to the indictment, Mr. Lodge and his wife sold human remains to buyers from their New Hampshire residence from 2018 through August of 2022. 

A lawsuit filed against the university July 13 in Suffolk County Superior Court claims the former morgue employee thought of himself as the "Grim Reaper," according to court documents cited by the Herald. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a woman whose late father donated his body to the medical school for research.

"This ghoulish black market was allowed to flourish in plain sight by an HMS morgue employee whose lack of respect for the dead was obvious to anyone who scrutinized his behavior; it is alleged that he drove to work each day and presumably parked in the HMS parking lot with a license plate identifying him as the 'GRIM-R' — as in, the grim reaper," the lawsuit states. 

Among the other allegations include that Mr. Cedric posted images of himself "dressed up in the garb of the undertaker in a Dickens novel with a black hat and overcoat." 

Harvard Medical School is facing at least two other lawsuits, the first of which was filed June 13 in Suffolk County Superior Court. As of June 23, 150 people had joined the class-action lawsuit, which alleges Harvard and Mr. Lodge breached their duty of care and failed to take reasonable steps to "ensure that the cadavers were properly handled and maintained for their intended purpose of scientific study and not properly mishandled, dissected, and/or sold to third parties." 

Another lawsuit seeking class-action status was filed in federal court in Boston July 14, according to the Herald. Attorneys estimate up to 400 bodies were mishandled. 

The university has told several news outlets that it would not comment on pending litigation. After arrests in the case were announced, Harvard mailed letters overnight to families who may have been affected, released a detailed statement and created a frequently asked questions page; however, the university has faced criticism for not addressing what processes are in place to monitor bodies donated for medical research. 

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