Man convicted of selling UCLA cadavers

A businessman has been found guilty of grand theft, embezzlement and tax evasion charges for selling human body parts donated to UCLA's medical school.

Ernest Nelson, 51, was convicted of selling heads, torsos and other parts donated to UCLA's willed-body program to pharmaceutical and medical research companies. The body business earned Nelson $1.5 million between 1999 and 2003, prosecutors said. When Nelson's activities became public in 2004, it forced the closure of the willed-body program for more than 18 months.

Nelson was able to access the cadavers with the cooperation of Harry Reid, the director of the willed-body program, who was paid a total of $43,000 by Nelson in return for providing access to the bodies. UCLA did not face any charges, but jurors later said that the university bore some fault for failing to better supervise the program.

Since the scandal broke, hundreds of relatives of persons who donated their bodies have filed lawsuits alleging negligence by UCLA, as well as some of the companies that bought body parts from Nelson.

To learn more about the scandal:
- read this Los Angeles Times piece

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