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French university boss charged over rotting corpses

The former president of a French university has been charged following shock revelations over the putrid conditions in which thousands of corpses donated to the faculty for research were kept, a source said on Monday.

French university boss charged over rotting corpses
Frederick Dardel, right, pictured in 2015 greeting then-president Francois Hollance, has been charged. Photo: Yoan Valet/AFP

Frederic Dardel has been charged with desecrating a corpse, a source close to the investigation told AFP, asking not to be named.

His lawyer confirmed he had been charged on Friday after being questioned over the scandal that forced the closure of the Centre for Body Donations at Paris-Descartes University.

In 2019, the government shut down the centre, heralded as a “temple of anatomy” for over half a century, after reports that bodies were left to rot, be gnawed by mice or even sold.

L’Express news magazine in November 2019 broke the story of what it described as a “mass grave in the heart of Paris.”

It said that photographs taken in the cold room of the Centre for Body Donations showed macabre scenes of bodies “naked, dismembered, eyes open, piled up on a gurney.

The report described “bodies by the dozen in an indescribable jumble. Here, a decomposing leg dangles. There, another damaged, blackened and riddled with holes after being nibbled by mice.”

Situated in Paris’s historic Latin Quarter, the Centre for Body Donations was founded in 1953 and received hundreds of bodies a year before it was closed.

Unnamed sources told L’Express that while bodies had been stocked on top of each other for “decades”, conditions had deteriorated sharply from 2013 on.

The magazine reported that one of the doors of the cold room was so rusty it no longer closed and that the air conditioning frequently broke down, forcing staff to incinerate some rotting bodies before they had been dissected.

It also revealed that bodies donated for teaching anatomy had been sold to private individuals or companies, with a limb going for up to €400 and a whole body for up to €900.

The report, which was based on photographs taken inside the centre in 2016, caused a scandal.

In June 2020, a report by a government agency in charge of inspecting education facilities concluded that there had been “serious ethical breaches” in the management of the Centre for Body Donations.

The report noted that various warnings had gone unheeded by management until 2018.

Two lab assistants have already been charged with desecrating a corpse, as has Paris University, a new entity created in 2020 from the merger of Paris-Descartes University and a sister faculty.

Dardel had escaped censure until now.

After the centre was closed he was made a special advisor in the cabinet of Minister for Research Frederique Vidal and later appointed director of a unit at the state research facility CNRS.

His lawyer Marie-Alix Canu-Bernard argued that he had tirelessly lobbied the government to fund renovations of the centre, but that his appeals had gone unheard.

Speaking to AFP, she argued that the state, not Dardel, was guilty of neglect.

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LIVING IN FRANCE

French schools, renting property and vocabulary: 6 essential articles for life in France

From how to quit your job in France to choosing the best French school for your kids and learning all the vocabulary of France's cost of living crisis - here are six essential articles for life in France.

French schools, renting property and vocabulary: 6 essential articles for life in France

In the last two years, many people across the world have either considered leaving or have left their jobs amid the “Great Resignation” (or La Grande démission, en Français). 

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EXPLAINED: What you should know if you want to quit your job in France

Next, the French government is recommending that everyone become familiar with this website, and you’ll really to know how to use it if you will be living in France during the winter of 2022-2023. 

Ecowatt is the government’s ‘energy forecasting’ website. It will provide you with daily updates and give you an idea as to whether the electrical grid is under stress due to energy shortages. The Local put together an article on how to sign up for alerts, which will help you keep track of whether your area is at risk for short, localised power cuts this winter.

‘Ecowatt’: How you should use France’s new energy forecasting website?

Amid potential energy shortages this winter and the cost of living crisis, foreigners living with France have been faced with learning a whole new set of French vocabulary words.

It can be difficult to keep up to date with the French news – even for native-French speakers. To help you follow along and stay informed, The Local has compiled a list of French terms you are likely to hear when the government or media discusses inflation, along with their English translations.

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Parenting in a country you did grow up in comes with unique challenges and joys. One thing anglophone parents tend to wonder about is whether or not they should send their children to international schools (where English might be more widely spoken) or opt for local French schools.

The Local spoke with some anglophone parents, and compared the advantages and disadvantages of the various options in order to help you make the best decision for your family. 

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Many foreigners living in France prefer renting to buying. When looking for that perfect home or apartment, there are a few things to consider. First and foremost – renting in France depends largely on where you live. Renting in a rural or suburban environment will differ greatly from renting in a big city. Nevertheless – renters across France are faced with the same question: furnished or unfurnished? 

The two options differ in terms of price, convenience, and sometimes availability. You can read The Local’s guide to renting property in France.

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If you live in France and you are considering attending the games, The Local has put together what you need to know in order to secure your tickets.

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