Lawsuit alleges mistreatment of human cadaver at WMU

August 11th, 2011 by Staff

KALAMAZOO COUNTY, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – Western Michigan University is responding to bizarre allegations that its school of Health and Human Services mistreated a human cadaver.

The allegations are detailed in two federal lawsuits where students claim they were discriminated against and unfairly blocked from being able to get a degree.

Periodically WMU receives human cadavers and body parts on loan from Michigan State University to help students learn.

In federal lawsuits, two students say a human cadaver was not treated with respect and dignity, allegations that the university flat-out denies.

The allegations that the cadaver was mistreated are detailed in two federal lawsuits filed by two students, David Kocenda and Steven Henry.

The students say they were in anatomy class when a professor, identified as Philip Walcott, did an exam on the donated body in class.

The lawsuit then says, “defendant Walcott had placed a rubber penis inside the body cavity of the cadaver with the laboratory exam question referencing the penis on an index card.”

The lawsuit says the rubber penis was inserted into the stomach area of the cadaver, but the cadaver situation is mentioned only once in the lawsuits and appears to have little to do with the rest of the 20 pages of allegations of academic misconduct on the part WMU.

On Tuesday WMU leaders discussed the issue with Newschannel 3, saying they did a full investigation into what happened in the classroom. A spokesperson told us the instrument the professor used was not a penis, and what was done was not disrespectful to the human remains, but was simply an educational exercise where something was inserted into the chest cavity that was not offensive to many students.

On Tuesday, Michigan State University also seemed to back up what leaders at WMU are saying, telling Newschannel 3 that they will continue to loan cadavers to Western, saying “after communicating with WMU officials, MSU is confident that all bodies and body parts are being treated respectfully.”

Western also released an official statement on Tuesday, criticizing the students who brought the suit.

That statement follows below;

“Western Michigan University has a commitment to ensure that cadavers loaned to it for anatomy classes are treated with respect and dignity. After receiving an anonymous allegation in May about cadaver mistreatment, the University moved immediately to conduct a thorough investigation and found the allegations were without merit. Over the course of that investigation, students in the class in question referenced their shock and disappointment that such allegations had been made. Students who were interviewed identified someone they believed to be the source. Our efforts to talk to that individual were not successful.

That individual has since filed a lawsuit against WMU on a different matter. While the allegations may originally have been a tool to leverage the plaintiff’s demands, we believe they are now being used to sully the reputation of the university and one of its outstanding academic programs. We cannot stop people from attempting to use the courts to further their own agendas, but the University will certainly vigorously defend itself against these unwarranted claims.”

Both lawsuits suggest that the university discriminated against the two students on the basis of their gender and their disabilities. Each plaintiff is asking for at least $75,000 in compensation.

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