Families say companies which handle bodies donated for research sold deceased relatives' body parts

By Scott Holland | Jul 15, 2015

Two Illinois families are suing a handful of companies they accuse of adding their late relatives’ remains to “an illegal scheme to transport human body parts across state and international borders for profit.”

The families of Joseph Senderak and Thomas Hayes filed complaints Tuesday, July 14, in Cook County Circuit Court. Named defendants are Biological Resource Center of Illinois and its Arizona counterpart; Cremation Services Inc.; Anatomical Services Inc.; Arthroscopy Association of North America; International Biological Inc.; and Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care.

According to the lawsuits, both men, upon their death, intended to have their bodies donated for medical research, but their descendants now believe — based on known evidence from part of a federal investigation — those remains were caught up in the “scheme.”

The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act and National Organ Transplant Act forbid the purchase and sale of human organs and tissues. However, the suits claim, as early as 2008, the defendants ordered, shipped and sold body parts among each other with a documented paper trail.

The lawsuits cite a federal investigation of the defendants that started in late 2013 with the execution of search warrants on International Biological. In the succeeding months, state and federal search warrants were executed on other defendants, including the Cook County locations of Biological Resource Center of Illinois and Cremation Services Inc.

Hayes, of Rolling Meadows, died Sept. 28, 2013. Senderak, of Schaumburg, died Dec. 20, 2014. When both were alive, Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care referred their wives, Linda Hayes and Catherin Senderak, to Biological Resource Center of Illinois to carry out the donation wishes of their husbands. Hayes’ daughters, Carly Hayes and Megan Frank, join Linda Hayes as plaintiffs in their suit. Additional plaintiffs in the Senderak suit are the Senderaks’ sons, Jonathan, Grant and Ryan Senderak.

Biological Resource Center of Illinois contacted the Senderak family to say his body was cremated following the completion of medical research, and it delivered a box of purported remains on Jan. 6, 2015. However, the family soon learned FBI agents on Jan. 13, 2015, seized “a wooden box containing the remains of Joseph Senderak.” In July they learned those remains do not include his head and parts of his arms.

The Hayes family also was told Thomas Hayes’ remains were cremated following medical research and accepted delivery of a box of ashes purported to be those remains. Yet in July, they learned after most of Hayes’ body was “leased” for study, “many of his body parts were removed and sold for profit” by Biological Resource Center of Illinois.

The complaints in both suits allege counts of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, wrongful disposition of a body, common law fraud, violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, civil conspiracy and negligent referral, the latter being the only complaint leveled against Rainbow Hospice, and Rainbow being the only defendant named in that cont.

Both families are seeking at least $50,000 in damages, as well as compensation for legal fees, and are using the same attorneys, Katherine Cardenas and Peter Nozicka, of Lucas and Cardenas, of Chicago.

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