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UTMB body mishandling case suspect dies of cancer

By APWire
On January 26, 2004

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) _ Allen Tyler Jr., the man at the center of an investigation into the donated-body program at the University of Texas Medical Branch, has died from cancer. He was 58.

Funeral services were conducted Friday. Tyler died in his home Jan. 17.

Tyler, who worked at UTMB's Willed Body Program for 36 years, was fired in May 2002 after a routine internal audit a couple of months earlier found the program's records in disarray and raised suspicions of illegal body trafficking. Later that year, the university suspended the program _ which took in about 300 bodies a year for medical education.

The university called in the FBI to investigate and notified 78 families that the ashen remains returned to them may not have been those of their loved ones or may have been commingled with those of other donors. The federal agency also began investigating Tyler for the possible illegal sale of body parts.

FBI spokesman Bob Doguim said despite Tyler's death, his agency's probe will continue.

``Mr. Tyler was not the only focus in that investigation,'' he told the Houston Chronicle in Saturday editions.

Lawsuits filed by the family members of people who willed their bodies to the program will also proceed because Tyler was just one of several defendants in the civil cases, said Galveston attorney Larry Tylka.

``His death will make it more difficult to try and determine Mr. Tyler's role and the roles of UTMB officials with respect to the allegations of body selling and the payments received,'' said Tylka, who represents the families of 30 people whose bodies were donated to the program. ``We'll now have just many unanswered questions.''

Tyler was responsible for receiving and shipping all bodies and body parts at the medical school, as well as for dismembering bodies and shipping parts to other research facilities across the state and nation.

Last summer, a Houston appeals court ruled state law protects UTMB from several lawsuits filed by the families of donors.

Tylka said other aspects of the case remain before the appellate court.

Tyler was supervisor of anatomica services for the Willed Body Program from 1975 until May 2002. He was first hired by UTMB in 1962, two years before he graduated high school.

The Galveston native is survived by his wife, Rose; three children; a sister; and five grandchildren.

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