Joseph Shapiro

Joseph Shapiro is a NPR News Investigations correspondent.

In this role, Shapiro takes on long-term reporting projects and covers breaking news stories for NPR's news shows.

Shapiro's major investigative stories include his reports on the failure of colleges and universities to punish for on-campus sexual assaults; the inadequacy of civil rights laws designed to get the elderly and people with disabilities out of nursing homes, and the little-known profits involved in the production of medical products from donated human cadavers.

His reporting has generated wide-spread attention to serious issues here and abroad. His "Child Cases" series, reported with PBS Frontline and ProPublica, found two dozen cases in the U.S. and Canada where parents and caregivers were charged with killing children, but the charges were later reversed or dropped. Since that series, a Texas man who was the focus of one story was released from prison. And in California, a woman, who was the subject of another story, had her sentence commuted.

Shapiro joined NPR in November 2001 and spent eight years covering health, aging, disability and children's and family issues on the Science Desk. He reported on the health issues of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and helped start NPR's 2005 Impact of War series with reporting from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center. He covered stories from Hurricane Katrina to the debate over overhauling the nation's health care system.

Before coming to NPR, Shapiro spent 19 years at U.S. News & World Report, as a Senior Writer on social policy and served as the magazine's Rome bureau chief, White House correspondent and congressional reporter.

Among honors for his investigative journalism, Shapiro has received a Peabody Award, a Robert F. Kennedy Award, the Edward R. Murrow Award, Sigma Delta Chi, IRE, Dart and Gracie awards and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Award.

Shapiro is the author of the award-winning NO PITY: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement (Random House/Three Rivers Press), which is widely read in disability studies classes.

Shapiro studied long-term care and end-of-life issues as a participant in the yearlong 1997 Kaiser Media Fellowship in Health program. In 1990, he explored the changing world of people with disabilities as an Alicia Patterson Foundation fellow.

Shapiro attended the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Carleton College. He's a native of Washington, D.C., and lives there now with his family.

Shots - Health News
5:14 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Shooting Unfairly Links Violence With Mental Illness — Again

Lt. Gen. Mark Milley speaks to reporters April 2 regarding the second shooting in five years on the Fort Hood Army post in Texas.
Drew Anthony Smith Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 4, 2014 7:05 am

With the Army's disclosure that Army Spc. Ivan Lopez was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder before he went on a shooting rampage Wednesday, there were once again questions about whether the Army could have prevented the violence at Fort Hood.

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Shots - Health News
1:15 pm
Wed July 10, 2013

Mastermind Of 'Body Stealing' Scheme Dies

In 2008, Michael Mastromarino was sentenced in a New York City courtroom for enterprise corruption, body stealing and reckless endangerment.
Jesse Ward AP

Originally published on Wed July 10, 2013 1:28 pm

Dr. Michael Mastromarino died Sunday after battling liver and bone cancer. He was 49.

Mastromarino pleaded guilty to "body stealing." In 2008, he was sentenced to up to 58 years in prison.

But he continued to insist that he'd been misunderstood. He spoke to NPR, working with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, last year from a prison near Buffalo, N.Y.

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Law
3:17 am
Sat May 18, 2013

Turning Up The Heat On Civil Rights-Era Cold Cases

Originally published on Sat May 18, 2013 12:26 pm

Six years ago, the FBI took on a challenge: To review what it called cold-case killings from the civil rights era. The investigation into 112 cases from the 1950s and 1960s is winding down, and civil rights activists are weighing the FBI's efforts.

The review comes with word this week of the death of a man who'd been named, by a newspaper investigation, as a possible suspect in one notorious case.

The Case

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NPR News Investigations
2:03 pm
Fri May 3, 2013

Justice In The Segregated South: A New Look At An Old Killing

When John Queen died in August 1965 in front of the Ice House (the building between the Standard Oil station and The Dollar Store), rules of racial inferiority were so entrenched in Fayette, Miss., that black residents felt they couldn't complain. But just four months later things changed and black residents marched on Dec. 24 as part of their boycott against white-owned businesses.
Jack Thornell AP

Originally published on Sat May 4, 2013 4:41 am

This story contains language that some may find offensive.

In the segregated South in 1965, John Queen was about as insignificant as a man could be. He was black, elderly and paralyzed. His legs had been crushed when as a boy he fell off a roof. For the rest of his life, he pulled himself around with his hands.

In Fayette, Miss., he would shine shoes on Main Street for a few coins. People called him "Crippled Johnny" or "Shoe-Shine Johnny."

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The Two-Way
5:38 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

Law Targets Sexual Violence On College Campuses

Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 9:30 am

When President Obama signs an updated version of the Violence Against Women Act on Thursday afternoon, the law will include new requirements for how colleges and universities handle allegations of sexual assault.

Laura Dunn, who's been invited by the White House to attend, plans to be there.

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Remembrances
3:32 pm
Mon February 25, 2013

Koop Turned Surgeon General's Office Into Mighty Education Platform

Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 11:34 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

C. Everett Koop was the most outspoken and some would argue the most influential of all U.S. surgeon generals. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The correct plural form of the word is surgeons general.] He wore the uniform throughout most of the 1980s, and he turned an office with little power into a mighty platform - to educate Americans about AIDS prevention and the dangers of smoking.

C. Everett Koop died today at his home in Hanover, New Hampshire. He was 96. NPR's Joseph Shapiro looks back on his career.

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Shots - Health News
11:35 am
Wed January 16, 2013

Why A Young Man Died In A Nursing Home, A State Away From His Mom

Zach Sayne at age 5, with his mother Nola.
Courtesy of Nola Sayne

Originally published on Thu January 17, 2013 2:12 pm

Zach Sayne was 25 when he died earlier this month at the place that had been his home for 15 years — a children's nursing home in Alabama.

But that was too far away, 200 miles too far, for his mother in Georgia. Nola Sayne was trying to bring him back, closer to her home. The story of why she couldn't reveals the bureaucratic traps, underfunding and lack of choices that plague state Medicaid programs.

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NPR News Investigations
1:16 pm
Fri December 21, 2012

Dismissed Case Raises Questions On Shaken Baby Diagnosis

Jennie and Kristian Aspelin pose in a pumpkin patch with their children two weeks before three-month-old Johan died.
Courtesy of the Aspelin family

Originally published on Tue January 29, 2013 1:27 pm

When San Francisco prosecutors dismissed charges against Kristian Aspelin in early December, it became just the latest case to raise questions about how shaken baby syndrome is diagnosed. Aspelin, who was accused of causing the death of his infant son, had one thing in his favor: He had enough money to pay for medical experts who cast doubt on the prosecution's theory.

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Shots - Health Blog
9:22 am
Sun October 7, 2012

Spinal Surgery Company To Give Tissue Proceeds To Charity

The maker of a new product for spine surgeons wants to make a splash by donating proceeds to two charities.
Spinal Elements

When a California company developed a product to be used in spinal fusion surgeries, the firm's president said he knew it faced a new "ethical dilemma," even noting a recent NPR news investigation questioning the high profits some firms were making from donated human tissue.

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The Two-Way
1:36 am
Tue October 2, 2012

Brain-Damaged Man Wins New Trial In Two-Decades-Old Killing

Originally published on Tue October 2, 2012 11:08 am

Richard Lapointe confessed in 1989 that he stabbed, raped and killed his wife's 88-year-old grandmother two years earlier. But in the 23 years since, experts in criminal justice have come to better understand how sometimes people make false confessions — especially someone with brain damage, like Lapointe. On Monday, Connecticut's state Appellate Court ordered a new trial, saying prosecutors wrongly withheld potentially important evidence.

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The Two-Way
5:07 pm
Thu September 6, 2012

Pistorius Falls To Britain's Peacock In 100 Meters; American Browne Is Second

Bronze medalist Arnu Fourie of South Africa (from left), gold medalist Jonnie Peacock of Great Britain, silver medalist Richard Browne of the United States and Oscar Pistorius of South Africa cross the line in the Men's 100m - T44 Final at London's Olympic Stadium.
Jamie McDonald Getty Images

Originally published on Fri September 7, 2012 4:25 am

In one of the most closely watched events at the London Paralympics, South African Oscar Pistorius failed in his attempt to win the 100-meter sprint and regain his title as the world's fastest amputee today.

Great Britain's Jonnie Peacock took the lead early and kept it, winning in 10.90 seconds, a Paralympic record. American Richard Browne, 21, of Jackson, Miss., won the silver medal.

Pistorius, the double amputee who ran in the Olympics this year, came in fourth. He finished in 11.17 seconds.

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The Two-Way
2:36 pm
Wed September 5, 2012

Oscar Pistorius Seeks Redemption In Race To Be The World's Fastest Amputee

In a surprise finish, Brazil's Alan Fonteles Cardoso Oliveira (left) races past South Africa's Oscar Pistorius to win a gold medal in the 200-meter race at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
Emilio Morenatti AP

Originally published on Thu September 6, 2012 4:43 am

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Sports
4:24 am
Sun September 2, 2012

Paralympian's Pursuit Enables Aspiring Athletes

Tatyana McFadden has won medals at the Paralympic Games in 2004 and 2008. At this year's games in London, she's participating in every wheelchair race from the 100-meter sprint to the marathon.
Courtesy of Deborah McFadden

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Sports
3:22 pm
Tue August 28, 2012

Debate Pits Strasburg's Health Against Wins

Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park last week.
Patrick McDermott Getty Images

Originally published on Tue August 28, 2012 6:52 pm

One of the biggest debates in Washington, D.C., these days has nothing to do with taxes, health care or the economy. It's about baseball and whether the Washington Nationals should end the season of their young pitching star, Stephen Strasburg, just as the team may be headed for the playoffs.

Two years ago, Strasburg's promising career was threatened when he tore a ligament in his pitching arm. He needed surgery and couldn't pitch for a year.

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Human Tissue Donation
1:33 am
Thu July 19, 2012

The Seamy Side Of The Human Tissue Business

Michael Mastromarino (center) appeared in a New York City courtroom for sentencing on charges of corruption, body stealing and reckless endangerment, as the mastermind behind a scheme to loot hundreds of corpses and sell bone and tissue for transplants.
Jesse Ward AP

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 6:01 am

Part 4 in a four-part series

The human tissue industry has created medical advances for millions of Americans. Tissue taken from cadavers is turned into medical products for the living. A tendon can be used to repair a torn ACL. Veins are used in heart bypass operations. Bone can be turned into plates and screws. They look like something you'd find in a hardware store, but these get used to mend a broken leg. It's a $1 billion-a-year industry that attracts the altruistic, but sometimes the greedy.

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Human Tissue Donation
12:43 pm
Wed July 18, 2012

Am I A Tissue Donor, Too?

Organ and tissue donation forms vary from state to state. Some are very general, while others allow people to choose or restrict what they want to donate.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 7:20 pm

Part 3 in a four-part series

Maybe you've agreed to be an organ donor. There might be something on your driver's license — a red heart, a pink dot or the word "Donor" — to show it. That also means you've very likely agreed — even if you don't realize it — to donate more than just your organs.

I know that I'm an organ donor. I signed up years ago, when I renewed my driver's license. But I had no idea that I'd also signed up to donate my tissue. That is, until Laura Siminoff, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University's medical school, explained it to me.

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Human Tissue Donation
2:03 am
Wed July 18, 2012

Little Regulation Poses Problems Tracking Tissue

Unlike organs, tissue doesn't need to be transplanted immediately. Storage facilities like Tissue Banks International in San Rafael, Calif., process and store donated tissue for later use in medical products or as transplants.
Noah Berger AP

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 7:16 pm

Part 2 of a four-part series

Two winters ago, Lynnette Bellin tore her knee while skiing with her 5-year-old daughter.

"I felt the trademark pop ... and instantly knew I had injured my knee," she says.

But within a year, she was back to her athletic life.

"Recently in one week, I skied, ran, kayaked, standup paddle-boarded, swam and hiked. At the end of that week, I looked back in awe from where I have come from," she says.

Bellin healed quickly after receiving a tendon from a cadaver, which helped to repair her torn ACL.

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NPR News Investigations
10:48 am
Tue July 17, 2012

Calculating The Value Of Human Tissue Donation

Chris Truitt holds a photo of his daughter, Alyssa, who died when she was 2, at his home in De Forest Wis. After donating her organs and tissues, he decided on a career change that made him rethink tissue donation.
Narayan Mahon for NPR

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 7:11 pm

Part 1 of a four-part series

The story of how Chris Truitt went from being a tissue industry insider to an industry skeptic starts with a family tragedy.

In 1999, his 2-year-old daughter, Alyssa, died of a sudden health complication. Truitt and his wife, Holly, donated their daughter's organs and tissue, which saved the life of another young girl, Kaylin Arrowood.

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Sports
1:01 pm
Wed July 4, 2012

Baseball's Teen Phenom Steals Home, And Hearts

Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper walks out of the clubhouse before an interleague baseball game in Baltimore.
Patrick Semansky AP

Originally published on Wed July 4, 2012 2:03 pm

Bryce Harper was 16 when he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, pictured swinging a bat in the desert and declared "Baseball's Chosen One."

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Shots - Health Blog
9:13 am
Wed June 13, 2012

Disabled Woman Dies While Awaiting Second Chance At Kidney Transplant

Misty Cargill and her boyfriend, Mike Bishop, in 2006.
Duncan Group Homes

At Misty Cargill's funeral, the minister called her an advocate for other people with intellectual disabilities. She was — although a reluctant one.

Cargill became an advocate when NPR did a story about her fight to get a life-saving kidney transplant. Misty, 30, died in her sleep on Saturday. She was on a list to get that transplant when she died.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:13 pm
Mon May 21, 2012

Katie Beckett Defied The Odds, Helped Other Disabled Kids Live Longer

Katie Beckett fits herself with a vibrating vest that helps clear mucous from her lungs. A nurse comes over to her apartment in Cedar Rapids to help her do this twice a day. On the wall to the right are pictures of Katie as a child with Ronald Reagan. This story starts twenty-nine years ago with an angry President Ronald Reagan. <> We just recently received word of a little girl who has spent most of her life in a hospital. <> The little girl in the hospital was three-year-old Katie Beckett. Because of a brain infection, she needed to be hooked to a ventilator at night to breathe. Her parents wanted her home. Her doctors said she'd be better off at home. And it'd be cheaper, too: Just one-sixth the cost.
John Poole NPR

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 8:46 am

A few years ago, I asked a 13-year-old girl who was receiving care for cystic fibrosis on a Medicaid program known as the "Katie Beckett waiver" if she knew who Katie Beckett was. "Probably some kind of doctor," the girl said.

It was a logical guess. But Beckett was another child with a significant disability, and she changed health care policy for hundreds of thousands of other children with complex medical needs. On Friday, Beckett, at age 34, died in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, of complications from her disability.

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The Two-Way
2:03 pm
Tue April 17, 2012

Prosecutors Knew Of Forensics Flaws For Years, 'The Post' Reports

Originally published on Tue April 17, 2012 4:27 pm

For years, the U.S. Department of Justice has known that flawed forensic work by FBI experts may have led to the convictions of innocent people, but prosecutors rarely told defendants or their attorneys, according to an investigative report in The Washington Post.

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Post Mortem: Death Investigation In America
3:00 am
Thu March 29, 2012

New Evidence In High-Profile Shaken Baby Case

Shirley Ree Smith sits in the living room of her daughter's upstairs duplex in Alexandria, Minn. Smith is waiting to hear if California Gov. Jerry Brown will grant her clemency. "They say things happen for a reason. I'm not sure if I'll ever figure out a reason for all of this," she says.
Courtney Perry for NPR

Originally published on Tue April 17, 2012 2:31 pm

A senior pathologist in the Los Angeles County coroner's office has sharply questioned the forensic evidence used to convict a 51-year-old woman of shaking her 7-week-old grandson to death, identifying a host of flaws in the case.

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Post Mortem: Death Investigation In America
2:06 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Free, But Not Cleared: Ernie Lopez Comes Home

Ernie Lopez hugs his daughter, Nikki Lopez, for the first time since 2009. Ernie was released from prison on March 2 in Amarillo, Texas, after nine years, while he awaits a new trial.
Katie Hayes Luke Katie Hayes Luke for NPR

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 8:58 am

Ernie Lopez calls it his "rebirth." After spending nearly nine years in prison for the sexual assault of a 6-month old girl, a top Texas court threw out the conviction. And on Friday, the 41-year-old Lopez walked out of the detention center in Amarillo, Texas, where family and friends were waiting.

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The Two-Way
9:45 am
Fri February 24, 2012

Remembering Marine Sgt. Oscar Canon, A 'Superstar'

Marine Sgt. Oscar Canon, and the tattered hat he was wearing the day he was injured.
Joseph Shapiro NPR

Originally published on Fri February 24, 2012 10:45 am

After the explosion of the rocket-propelled grenade on a road in Fallujah, Oscar Canon saw the white of his own thigh bone. At the medical unit, the young Marine sergeant grabbed the doctor by his collar and yelled, "Don't cut off my f***ing leg." That was in October of 2004 and the first of dozens of surgeries — 72 separate operations, by a family member's count — that saved his leg.

Last week, Staff Sgt. Oscar Canon, 29, died. A Marine Corps spokesman at Camp Pendleton says the death is still being investigated.

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The Two-Way
9:29 am
Thu January 26, 2012

Judge Tosses Conviction Of Texas Man Accused Of Sexually Assaulting Infant

Ernie Lopez is serving a 60-year prison sentence for a crime he, and medical experts, say he didn't commit.
Courtesy of Frontline

Originally published on Fri January 27, 2012 9:30 am

A Texas man whose conviction for sexually assaulting a 6-month-old girl raised questions about the science behind determining how children die has won a key legal battle. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday threw out the conviction of Ernie Lopez, ruling that the Amarillo man's original attorneys failed him by not calling potentially important medical experts as witnesses.

Now the Amarillo district attorney must decide whether to retry Lopez, who has been in prison for nine years. Lopez is serving a 60-year sentence.

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Law
10:01 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

Calls For More Reporting Of Suspected Child Abuse

Students stand outside Penn State's Old Main building, protesting the handling of a child abuse scandal involving retired Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Gene J. Puskar AP

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 8:35 am

The revelations about alleged child sex abuse by a former Penn State football coach have caused policymakers to propose new measures to broaden who is required to report suspected abuse.

Each state already has laws that require some combination of doctors, teachers, day care providers and others who work with children to report suspected abuse. If they don't, they could face fines, the loss of a license, and, in some states, possibly jail time.

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The Two-Way
1:00 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

Book Award Winner's Tale Echoes Those Told By Other Vietnamese Refugees

Thanhha Lai.
Courtesy of Harper Collins

Thanhha Lai was 10 years old the day in 1975 that North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates of the presidential palace in Saigon and fear spread through the city on rumors that Communist troops were about to begin a massacre. Lai recalls fleeing with her eight older siblings and her mother to the nearby port and boarding a crowded South Vietnamese Navy ship that then headed to sea.

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Closing Walter Reed
1:12 pm
Fri September 2, 2011

'Change Is Hard': Army, Navy Hospitals Merge

Supporters from the D.C chapter of Free Republic send off the final patients from Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Saturday.
Maggie Starbard NPR

There's a lot of good sense behind closing two famous and nearby military hospitals and merging them into the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. But just looking at the name reveals both what's good about this merger and what makes it so tricky.

Walter Reed was a famous Army doctor, and for more than a century his name was on the Army's iconic hospital in Washington, D.C. Now that hospital is shutting its doors, and Reed's name will go onto the new hospital built on the Navy's flagship medical campus in Bethesda, Md., 6 miles away.

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