New York judge’s ruling green lights organ harvesting without family permission

6-13-2015 12-29-58PM

By Scotty Reid

A New York judge has ruled that a medical examiner or state coroner can keep organs removed from bodies after an autopsy and by law do not have to return or inform the family of the deceased if any organs or body parts are kept when releasing the body for burial.

“There is simply no legal directive that requires a medical examiner to return organs or tissue samples derived from a lawful autopsy and retained by the medical examiner after such an autopsy,” NY Daily News quoted Judge Eugene Pigott as saying.

RT reports on the case the judge issued the ruling,

The Shipley family from New York City suffered the loss of their 17-year old son Jesse in a 2005 car crash. After an autopsy, the teenager was buried, with his family not knowing the boy’s brain had been removed.

Two months after the funeral, Shipley’s classmates discovered his brain in a labeled jar during a field trip to the Staten Island morgue. After a court fight to have the brain returned, the family got the organ back and had a second funeral, as a Catholic priest had told them the boy was “unlawfully interred.”

Other cases where organs were found to be missing without informing family members have occurred over the years in other states.

14 yr old Jason Smith was found dead in a river in Louisiana back in 2011. The family believes that he was the victim of a racist hate crime and murder and said that their son’s organs were missing including the lungs. The coroner ruled that Jason Smith drowned. The lungs would help determine if Jason Smith drowned or was killed before being put into the water. Without the organs, it would be impossible to have a second independent autopsy performed to determine cause of death.

In 2013, the body of 17 yr-old Kendrick Johnson was found in a school gymnasium in Lowndes County, Georgia inside a rolled up mat. The sheriff’s investigators concluded rather quickly that he died in a freak accident, falling headfirst into an upright mat and becoming trapped. However, the family did not believe the determination and given other missing evidence like security camera footage, they wanted another autopsy done.  When the body was exhumed to undergo another autopsy, the organs were missing and the body was filled with newspaper preventing a second full autopsy.

While these two cases happened outside of New York and it can not be said with all certainty that either case involved organ harvesting but rather possible attempts to cover up crimes, a lawsuit was filed in 2012 accusing the nonprofit New York Organ Donor Network of organ harvesting.

The Huffington Post reported,

Patrick McMahon, a former transplant coordinator for the nonprofit New York Organ Donor Network, filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court on Tuesday in which he claimed that hospitals were pressured to harvest organs from patients who were not yet dead. “They’re playing God,” McMahon told the New York Post. According to McMahon’s lawsuit, the federally funded nonprofit bullied hospital staffers into prematurely declaring patients brain dead so that their organs could be taken, hired coaches to train staff on how to persuade next of kin to sign over their relatives’ bodies, and used an aggressive quota system to meet goals.

It seems logical to conclude that Judge Eugene Pigott’s ruling, if allowed to stand, will make it easier to facilitate the type of organ harvesting Patrick McMahon alleged going on in the New York hospital system. In fact, one might conclude that it may even encourage it. The outcome of McMahon’s lawsuit in New York could not be found after an online search for information.

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