Irvine, Calif., October 14, 1999
UC Irvine has received responses from 26 of 33 families it has contacted to determine the disposition of the ashes of donors to its Willed Body Program, and is continuing its efforts to find and review records, despite what appears to be inadequate and confusing record-keeping by the program's former director and inconsistent information that he provided to donor families.
The former director, Christopher S. Brown, was fired by UCI after a university-initiated review uncovered information indicating that he diverted university funds for personal purposes. UCI has asked the Orange County District Attorney to investigate any possible criminal activities and to prosecute to the full extent of the law.
UCI sent letters on Sept. 17 to those 33 families whose donor records indicated they had requested either information on final scattering of ashes, or the actual return of ashes, to determine if their requests had been met. UCI is continuing to work with the 26 families who have responded to determine the disposition of the ashes.
In addition to the responses from the 26 families, an additional 102 people have called the telephone hotline established by UCI on Sept. 17 or sent letters. These calls and letters have come from donors registered in the program, other families of donors who have died and concerned citizens. Of the 102 people, 21 wanted to sign up for the Willed Body Program and seven wanted to withdraw. Many of the calls have been for information regarding the date when the program will resume taking bodies of deceased donors.
As part of its efforts to determine the disposition of ashes, UCI is reviewing invoices to the program from mortuaries that provided cremation services.
"We are combing through all of the Willed Body Program records we have located to determine the information needed regarding disposition of these ashes, but have been frustrated and angered by the record-keeping problems we have uncovered," said Dr. Thomas C. Cesario, dean of the UCI College of Medicine.
Last month, Cesario announced a series of actions he was taking, including the establishment by him and Chancellor Ralph J. Cicerone of an external review group to advise them on any additional changes that should be made to improve oversight in College of Medicine departments, the initiation of periodic unannounced spot reviews of departments and programs, and the recruitment of an associate dean for administration.
Cicerone and Cesario have been contacting prospective review group members and expect to announce their names shortly. Cesario also is establishing a search committee for the associate dean for administration position.
There are currently 27 cadavers at UCI from the Willed Body Program. To date, UCI's review of the records of the program's former director has identified 22, and the university is working to identify the remaining five. Cesario will consult with an outside forensic pathologist to help with the identification of the five bodies.