CHICAGO ― For more than a decade, a college in Chicago stored four unidentified human cadavers in cardboard boxes in a locked, unrefrigerated closet, then fired a doctor who raised questions about it, according to a recently filed lawsuit.
Dr. Micah Young claims his employer dismissed him in retaliation for bringing attention to the mistreatment of human remains.
In Young’s lawsuit filed this week in Cook County Circuit Court, he says his work was considered outstanding until he was fired because of “performance issues.”
Young was dean of the Health Sciences and Career Programs at Malcolm X College, one of seven colleges in the system. He is seeking unspecified damages for wrongful and retaliatory firing and for violation of the Illinois Whistleblower Act.
In the lawsuit, Young says he was sacked Feb. 4 because he called attention to “severely decomposed cadavers” that weren’t properly identified and might cause workplace safety issues. He says the corpses had been stored at least 12 years.
Young’s attorney, Dennis Stefanowicz, told The Associated Press his client presumes the bodies were used in anatomy classes.
City Colleges spokeswoman Katheryn Hayes declined to answer general questions about how the college system uses cadavers or whether there is a policy statement about cadaver use, storage and treatment. The college system doesn’t generally comment on pending litigation, Hayes said.
The Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois, an approved vendor for cadavers in use at the colleges, has provided “six to eight total” cadavers to the system during the past five years and some are still being held for use, said Paul Dudek, the association’s executive vice president.
All the specimens provided are accounted for, Dudek said, but he’s checking records to be sure.
Cadavers don’t require refrigeration because they are embalmed, he said. The bigger problem would be lack of identification, Dudek said.
At minimum, Dudek said, “I would expect a unique identifier for each cadaver and paperwork to track the cadaver. With those conditions, it should be relatively straightforward to keep tabs on the cadaver.”
Dudek said he hopes the lawsuit won’t dissuade people from considering donating their bodies for education and research.