Bioethics: “Mass Grave” at Paris-Descartes University

Human bodies given to science have been stored without any dignity whatsoever in the Paris-Descartes University Center for Donations, for several years and some body parts have been illicitly sold. 

First reported on November 27 in the French newspaper, L’Express, the revelations have understandably provoked an outcry. Several photos dating from 2016 have unveiled dozens of corpses which had been stored in deplorable conditions on the facility’s fifth floor.

The article in L’Express has denounced “the pile of decomposed, dismembered, and mutilated bodies of men and women on the floor, where one of the three doors to the cold room is so rusty that it no longer closes properly.” Deplorable conditions for the corpses leading to poor working conditions were reported including temperatures too high, as well as defective and obsolete material.

Already in 2016, the director of the center, Professor Richard Douard, had reported the situation to Frédéric Dardel, the University’s former president, who is now an adviser to Frédérique Vidal, Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, under Edouard Philippe’s government.

Furthermore, the ethical rules, which stipulate using donations for medical research or for training future doctors, were violated: 75% of the center’s 2013 revenue came from the sale of body parts to private companies, manufacturers, and laboratories. Alex Kahn, a former Paris-Descartes University President, revealed the example of using corpses for car crash tests. In breach of these rules for donating human bodies to science, the University’s Board of Directors agreed on a price of 900 € for a human body, and between 420 € to 900 € to perform experiments on their premises, thus fostering a sordid traffic.

According to another previous director at the center, Professor Guy Vallancien (2004 to 2014), and quoted by L’Express: “There was a racket for smuggling body parts.Technicians sold them on Saturday morning to surgeons, who carried them off. Everything could be sold. “

The strong emotions felt at this discovery reminds of the shock in 2005 on discovering the fetuses at the Saint Vincent de Paul Hospital.

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