BRIGHTON, Colo. (CBS4) – A Colorado woman is part of a lawsuit that involves stealing from the dead, in order to sell to the living.
The lawsuit filed in the State of New York State Supreme Court involves body parts sold to tissue banks for transplants.
This story actually involves two Colorado women — one who simply wanted to have her father cremated in dignity, the other who received a medical implant. Somehow their lives became entangled with a doctor who robbed from the dead.
The two women living just a matter of several miles apart don’t know each other, yet they share a horrifying connection. It is through Dr. Michael Mastromarino. He was once a respected oral surgeon in New Jersey now he is described by victims as a monster.
“They had freezers there labled left arm, right arm, heads, skin,” Patti Juliano said.
What Juliano, of Brighton, described to CBS4 is the scene at funeral homes that had made deals with Mastromarino to provide him with bodies to sell the parts for transplants.
Among the deceased, her father, James Thornton, 72, who had skin cancer. The family thought he was to be cremated but were shocked and appalled to learn his body was cut up and the tissues sold after the paperwork was falsified.
“His age was wrong, health history was wrong … he had things wrong with him that were not documented … people would not want his skin … they said he died of a heart attack … he did not,” Juliano said.
Spearheaded by her sister, Karen Delre, the family is now suing those they feel are responsible for what happened to their father.
At the site in Florida where they believed his cremated remains were placed in a cemetary Karen Delre said “I look at this wall and wonder how many more people are learning this was done to their loved ones.”
In fact there were more than a thousand like James Thornton, in some cases bones were removed and replaced by pvc piping and garbage.
The body parts then went to tissue banks including RTI Biologics in Florida which sold them for a profit to doctors and hospitals. RTI would not comment on the lawsuit it is facing, but issued a statement to CBS4 Denver stating, ” “We are committed to providing safe, high quality allografts for surgeons and their patients. There has never been a confirmed transmission of any disease through the implant of our allograft tissue, including in the eight years that elapsed since the first recalled graft was implanted.”
One of those who received some of the bone and tissue during oral surgery was Stephanie Beradini of Denver, and now here’s the disturbing connection … she may have part of Patti Juliano’s father implanted in her.
Beradini said, “I don’t think anybody could imagine that somebody would be So morbid to actually do this.”
She learned of this in a letter from her periodontist who urged her to get tested for serious diseases, so far none has been found. But she insists tissue procurement should take place in hospitals only and not allowed in funeral homes.
“I’ve written many letters to many congressmen and the FDA … it’s such a big monster … I’m trying but can’t fight it,” Beradini told CBS4.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says extensive regulations were put in place around the time of this case.
Spokesman Devin Koontz said, “No regulation will prevent a firm like Mastromarino’s from breaking the law, but we do believe that we are capable of catching firms that are willfully trying to circumvent the regulations.”
CBS4 reporter asked Beradini what impact this has had on her life. She replied, “I was afraid to Kiss my child go od night.The disgust factor was so enormous.”
Dr. Michael Mastromarino was convicted and sentenced to up to 58 years in prison three years ago.
But the victims’ family members feel their sentence is life. As Karen Delre put it, “You think you protect somebody up to death. It doesn’t dawn on you you have to protect them after death.”
Her sister Patti Juliano told CBS4 she will not go to the cemetary anymore after learning their father’s body was stolen and sold for its parts.
“I don’t go any more because it’s not there. It’s probably sand that is in there.”
There is another Colorado tie to this unusual case. The doctor credited with discovering Mastermarino’s falsified paperwork is Dr. Michael Bauer, who lives and works in the Denver area.
If you are receiving a tissue implant you can ask your doctor exactly where it is coming from.
If you are a donor and want to learn more about exactly what you have consented to, the state has a registry. Its maintained by a non-profit organization called Donor Alliance.
For info on organ and tissue donation/colorado registry go to: www.donatelifecolorado.org
Link: View the lawsuit