If it’s never happened to you, it’s difficult to understand the tragedy of losing a loved one, especially in a death that requires an autopsy. The tension is terrible as you wait for the body to be returned from the authorities so that you can begin the process of burial or cremation. What if you discovered that parts of your loved one were missing? confiscated by the authorities?
This actually happened to the family of Brian Shipley of Staten Island who died in a 2005 car crash. Years after he was buried, a highschool classmate was doing a tour of the medical examiner’s office and found his friend’s brain preserved and proudly displayed in a jar. The family had no idea about this.
The Shipleys sued, as their beliefs require that the body be buried as a whole. The case has finally made it through the court. According to an article in the New York Daily News, the court decided it is legal for a medical examiner to keep body parts from an autopsy for their own use and that they don’t even have to tell the family.
Is it reasonable for a medical examiner to be able to keep a few souvenirs of their work? What do we say to people whose beliefs require a full accounting of the remains? Should people be compensated in some way when the state keeps a piece or two?
Personally, your author finds this pretty outrageous.