“Colorado funeral home director accused of illegally shipping body parts around globe reaches plea deal, court records show.”
That was a real headline in the June 15, 2022, issue of the Denver Post. According to the article:
"A federal grand jury in March 2020 indicted Hess and her mother Shirley Koch on a host of charges related to illegally selling body parts or entire bodies without the consent of the family of the deceased out of Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors in Montrose.
Hess and Koch were charged with six counts of mail fraud and three counts of illegal transportation of hazardous materials. If convicted of mail fraud, each faces up to 20 years in federal prison, per count. The other charges carry five years of prison time, per count. The pair, who pleaded not guilty to all counts, were set to stand trial next month in federal court …
Authorities alleged the pair would offer to cremate bodies for families and provide them their remains. But many of these cremations never happened. Instead, they alleged Koch and Hess sold parts of bodies — or entire bodies — to companies around the globe for significant profit.
Some of these bodies or body parts belonged to people who had died from infectious diseases, including HIV, authorities alleged…
Koch, in two interviews with law enforcement in February 2018, allegedly told investigators that Hess was the “brains” behind the operation, that the funeral home did not keep proper records and that cremated remains would be mixed because it was “‘too hard’ to keep things separate”…
Individuals from across the Western Slope told The Denver Post in 2018 about the heartache that has come with finding out that their parents or siblings or best friends were shipped off somewhere without their knowledge. The victims have formed support groups and kept in touch over the years, leaning on others who can relate to their grief."
It’s unimaginable that something like this can happen, but it does, every day.
The good news is YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
When a family chooses to donate a loved one’s body for education or research, they do so with the hope that they will help others. Regrettably, many, like the Saunders family, are unknowingly contributing to a for-profit industry in which the body of their loved one could be traded as raw material in a largely unregulated national market. The body broker to whom Mr. Saunders’ body was donated sold it for a reported $10,000 to the group hosting the “Cadaver Class.”
With the introduction of the Consensual Donation and Research Integrity Act of 2021 (CDRI Act) in the House (H.R. 4062), which has NFDA’s full support, Congress is taking a significant step toward protecting the dignity of donors and offering peace of mind to families by creating standards for registration; inspection; transparency; chain of custody; labeling and packaging; and proper disposition. Click here to learn more about the bill. https://www.nfda.org/BodyBrokerBill
How YOU Can Help
NFDA is working hard every day to secure congressional support for the CDRI Act but we can’t do it alone. We are stronger – and more successful – when you join us in speaking out on behalf of the families you serve.
We’re asking you to contact your members of Congress and urge them to support the CDRI Act of 2021. Contacting your Representative is as easy as 1, 2, 3!
1. Click here to find contact information for your representatives in the House.
2. Compose an email to your representative. Here’s a sample email you can use; feel free to personalize it as appropriate.
Protect the Dignity of Those Who Donate Their Bodies for Medical Research and Give Peace of Mind to Families
As your constituent and licensed funeral director, I’m writing to request your support for the Consensual Donation and Research Integrity Act of 2021 (H.R. 4062; CDRI Act). As a funeral director, when a family asks me to care for a loved one who has died they are placing a great deal of trust in me. That trust – to care for their loved one with respect and dignity – is sacred to me.
Regrettably, many are unknowingly contributing to a for-profit industry in which the body of their loved one could be traded as raw material in a largely unregulated national market. With the introduction of the Consensual Donation and Research Integrity Act in the House, which has the full support of the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), Congress is taking a significant step toward protecting the dignity of donors and offering peace of mind to families. The Consensual Donation and Research Integrity Act will protect the dignity of donors and give families peace of mind by creating standards for registration; inspection; chain of custody; labeling and packaging; and proper disposition.
The families of donors deserve peace of mind, knowing their loved one’s body will make a difference. We hope you will join us in bringing accountability and transparency to this process and help ensure that donors’ bodies are always treated with dignity and respect.
<YOUR FUNERAL HOME NAME>
<CITY AND STATE>
3. Proofread your message and then send it off to your representative!
It's realy that simple!
Collectively, our voices are stronger when we speak together. Thank you again for taking a few minutes to contact your Representative on this important issue; this simple act shows just how much you care for the families you serve.
Please stay tuned for more updates on this bill as it makes its way through Congress.