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A family of a deceased woman whose body parts may have been illegally harvested by funeral homes and tissue-processing companies was to file a suit in Philadelphia against several people, some of whom have already been indicted on similar charges. Lawrence Cohan and Melissa Hague of Anapol Schwartz Weiss Cohan Feldman & Smalley were to file suit today in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court on behalf of the son of a local woman whose body parts may have been harvested. About 17 other similarly situated families will be filing similar suits individually through the firm, according to a firm spokeswoman. Cohan is co-lead counsel in federal court for already filed multidistrict litigation against similar defendants by recipients of the potentially tainted body parts. There are 1,000 cases in the federal court, with about 150 coming from Anapol Schwartz clients, Cohan said. The planned filing of the suit on behalf of possible donors comes just a few weeks after a Philadelphia grand jury indicted funeral directors, harvesters and tissue services companies for taking body parts of the dead that could have been decayed or diseased and without the knowledge of the donors’ families or the recipients. There were between 40 and 50 families that were contacted by the District Attorney’s Office after the indictments came down and some of them are parties to the planned lawsuit. Cohan said he expects more families to come forward. “We’re getting calls every day,” he said. There are several families who believe they were victimized because they were told the caskets of their loved ones could not be opened for the funeral services, but they can’t be sure, Cohan said. Cohan said the medical question in the recipient cases as to whether the cleansing of the tissues would have prevented the spread of disease to the recipients is not a factor in the donor case. “For these folks, it is wrong no matter what,” Cohan said. Several of the recipients could potentially contract contagious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis and sepsis, according to the grand jury report. While he said he would have to work with the District Attorney’s Office now that the indictments have come down, Cohan said he intends to pursue discovery aggressively and immediately.

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