What follows is the main wording from the letters sent via first class mail on December 7, 2023, from Harvard University Provost Alan M. Garber and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine George Q. Daley to the registered, living anatomical donors who have chosen to will their bodies to the Harvard Medical School Anatomical Gift Program. We relied on mailed letters because until recently, the Anatomical Gift Program did not collect email contacts for anatomical donors.
Our records indicate that you have registered to will your body to the Harvard Medical School Anatomical Gift Program. Thank you for your selfless and generous gift to advance medical education and research.
We value transparency and are writing to you today with an update on the independent review of our Anatomical Gift Program. This review was initiated by Harvard University after we learned from the U.S. Attorney’s Office about allegations of criminal activity within the program, which led to the indictment and arrest of Cedric Lodge, a former staff member in the HMS morgue.
Lodge’s alleged criminal acts, which involved the unlawful interstate transport of stolen human remains, are morally reprehensible and inconsistent with the standards that Harvard University, Harvard Medical School, our anatomical donors, and their loved ones expect and deserve. We reaffirm our deep sorrow for the continued uncertainty and distress that families face as the criminal proceedings continue.
We immediately set up a webpage (hms.harvard.edu/family-resources) with resources for next of kin and family members, which now includes brief updates on the criminal investigation as announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We also launched a toll-free information and support center, staffed by specially trained counselors who are currently available daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET at 1-888-268-1129. Should you need them, these resources are also available to you.
Separate from the criminal investigation into Lodge’s activities and as part of its oversight of Harvard Medical School, the Harvard University Office of the President and Provost appointed a panel of three outside experts to evaluate the Anatomical Gift Program and related policies and practices, with the goal of providing constructive feedback and recommendations to ensure that the program adheres to the highest standards and best practices. The panel recently concluded its work, culminating in a report released today on our public website at provost.harvard.edu/AGP-update.
We thank the external panelists for their vital and thorough work over the past several months. As a critical next step, we have appointed a task force chaired by HMS Dean for Medical Education Bernard Chang to review the panel’s recommendations and to develop an implementation plan in an expedient and thoughtful manner.
We take our responsibility for oversight of the Anatomical Gift Program seriously. We owe it to you and your loved ones to ensure that Harvard is worthy of your trust and your selfless generosity. An anatomical donation is among the most altruistic acts and deserves our attention and profound respect.
Alan M. Garber
George Q. Daley
Dean of the Faculty of Medicine