culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Thursday, February 27, 2003
toesMore symbols of Texas. State flower:
bluebonnet. State reseller: Linda "Jus' Stuff" Lay. State murder weapon: Mercedes-Benz. State final meal: various.

And now a new Texas classification — state black market body parts: fingernails, toenails and torsos...
Galvestonian Allen Tyler put more than $18,000 in his pocket by selling fingernails and toenails from bodies donated to the University of Texas* Medical Branch for medical research, newly released records show.

Tyler supervised UTMB's Willed Body Program for more than 30 years until he was fired almost a year ago. He also received at least $56,000 in direct payments from a New Jersey firm; UTMB officials believe its owner and Tyler profited from the illegal sale of bodies or body parts, the records show.

Records examined by the Houston Chronicle this week show that between November 1999 and August 2001, Tyler received at least $18,210 from Watson Laboratories Inc. of Salt Lake City for hundreds of human fingernails and toenails. The firm used the nails to test experimental medicines.


Tyler received $4,005 from Watson in one transaction. The money paid for 232 fingernails at $15 each and 35 toenails at $15 each, according to Tyler's records. Tyler sent letters directing the company to make out checks to him, and he gave his home address in Galveston as the place to which the payments should be sent, records show.


After Tyler was fired, UTMB officials discovered that he had allowed the ashes of scores of body donors whose remains were cremated to be commingled, making it impossible to return ashes to donors' families who had expected to receive the remains. After UTMB informed the families of the mixed ashes, relatives of several body donors filed lawsuits -- all still pending -- against Tyler and UTMB seeking damages.


The newly released records include many invoices that show how donated bodies were used.

Among dozens of those invoices, more than 30 reflect shipments of body parts -- mostly human torsos -- to a company called Surgical Body Forms, owned by Agostino "Augie" Perna.

The Perna-related invoices direct that checks be made out to Tyler and sent to him at his office or his home.
We wouldn't ordinarily pay this much attention to the symbolic character of Texas, except that the state has generously offered to share the genius of its former governor with us and the rest of the world.

*Let's not forget that the esteemed University of Texas and its macabre cache of donated and mutilated human cadavers is also a major client of the dastardly and mysterious Carlyle Group.

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