Morgue mistakenly sends woman's body to medical school

, Posted: Wed, June 18 2014 at 12:12 PM, Updated: Wed, June 18 2014 at 12:16 PM

Morgue mistakenly sends woman's body to medical school

(NBC Bay Area) New York -- The family of woman who died last month filed a $20 million suit against New York City after a Bronx morgue allegedly mistakenly sent her remains to a medical school as an anatomical donation, the family’s lawyer said.

The family of Aura Ballesteros is suing the city for emotional distress for allegedly shipping the 85-year-old’s body away without the family’s consent, according to their attorney, Sanford Rubenstein.

"What's happening in the medical examiner's office, and this is not the first example of callousness and negligence, is unacceptable to the people of this city," Rubenstein said.

Ballesteros died in her sleep May 16 at the Kings Harbor Nursing Home after years of heart disease and dementia, the Daily News reports. Her body was taken to a morgue in the Bronx, and the city medical examiner's office told her son that they would hold the remains until June 16 so he could make funeral arrangements.

But on June 3 the son, Hector Ballesteros, got a notification that his mother’s corpse had been shipped to Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, the News reports.

He called the school and was told he had to wait two days to get his mother's body back.

“I am thinking she is lying in a classroom with teacher and students maybe are dissecting her,” he said.

Aura Ballesteros wasn't part of a dissection, but she had been embalmed, the medical examiner’s office told the News. The office’s chief of staff, Barbara Butcher, said that a staffer at an office in Manhattan called the morgue in the Bronx to tell them about the arrangements, but the person on the other end of the line didn't make a note of it.

“Appropriate personnel actions are being taken to ensure such a mistake doesn't happen again,” Butcher said.

Normally, bodies that aren’t claimed from city morgues within 14 days are given to medical schools or are buried at Potters Field.

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