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Illegal Body Parts Used For Oklahoma Patients

Apr 10, 2006 | AP

At least 15 Oklahoma medical facilities performed surgeries with potentially tainted bone tissue taken from cadavers on the East Coast, a newspaper reported on Sunday.

Susan Fisher, 36, of Okmulgee, and Priscilla Loveland, 52, of Cushing, were among those who received certified letters from Oklahoma hospitals notifying them that the bones used in their surgeries were part of a ``recall.''

``I was flabbergasted,'' Loveland told The Oklahoman. ``This is a scary deal.''

Unapproved bone tissue secretly taken from untested corpses on the East Coast had been inserted in their necks 10 months earlier, they were told. They should be tested to see whether they had contracted HIV, hepatitis or syphilis.

Federal Food and Drug Administration officials refused to say how many Oklahomans received the potentially tainted body parts during surgeries that took place from early 2004 through September 2005.

The story broke in February when New York prosecutors filed a 122-count indictment that accused the owner of Biomedical Tissue Services, a New Jersey biomedical firm, and three other people of stealing cadaver body parts from a Brooklyn funeral home and selling them for use in surgeries.

Prosecutors allege the stolen body parts included bones, tendons, heart valves, skin and other tissue, prosecutors said.

Several civil lawsuits have been filed nationwide in connection with the case, including a federal court lawsuit in Tulsa.

At the request of the federal Food and Drug Administration, five tissue processing companies that received material from Biomedical Tissue Services voluntarily recalled all unused tissue obtained from that source. Processing companies clean and sterilize tissue before it is sent to distributors for sale to hospitals.

The FDA also recommended that doctors who had implanted the tissue notify their patients and provide them access to appropriate infectious disease testing.

Hillcrest of Tulsa is one of the hospitals that notified its patients, hospital spokeswoman Sally Huggins confirmed.

Fisher said she felt stunned Feb. 16 when she opened a certified letter from Hillcrest and read that the bone pieces that had been implanted in her neck April 11 were part of a recall.

``They used that word, 'recall,''' she said.

The notice was accompanied by a packet of information that offered free blood testing and said the FDA considered risks to be low, because the tissue had undergone routine sterilization procedures.

Loveland declined to say where she had her surgery, saying she didn't fault the doctor or hospital because they had no way of knowing that the bones had been obtained illegally.

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