Healthcare News & Insights

Training update: Autopsied brains should not be sent to families

As if you needed more proof that you can never do enough training on both proper procedures and how to communicate with patient families.

A New Mexico family has filed a lawsuit after they were given a woman’s post-autopsy brain in a bag along with her personal effects.

The woman, identified only as M.F.R., died in a car crash in Utah, where a local funeral home handled the initial embalming. Her family arranged with a second funeral home near them to take care of the funeral and burial.

Somewhere along the way, someone obviously got confused.

The brain, removed for autopsy, was shipped separately from the rest of the body. At the viewing, it was given to her family along with other items with the deceased at the time of the crash.

The unsealed bag with her belongings was left overnight in the family car. The next day, after the funeral, someone noticed a strange smell wafting from the vehicle. When they checked, they saw a small bag marked plainly with the woman’s name and the word, “brain.”

Not surprisingly, family members weren’t pleased.

They are now suing the two funeral homes involved, as well as the shipping company that transported her body and belongings. The allegations: professional negligence, mishandling a body, and “outrage,” among others.

It’s hard to imagine how many things had to go wrong for this to happen — for starters, no one noticed a major body part was missing when preparing the body for the funeral.

But it drives home the point: If something can go wrong, it eventually will. No detail is too small (or too obvious) to be reviewed in training from time to time.

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  1. One word….sickening.