Decomposed Body Unable to be Used at Funeral

Michael Talve, CEO

Written by
— Updated on December 18, 2017

This case involves a woman who died and the family agreed to tissue transplantation. An issue arose when the family of the decedent alleged that the body had decomposed, and thus, could not be used in an open casket. After the woman died, the hospital was delayed in transporting the body for tissue transplantation. They kept it in the basement of the hospital for a few hours. There was a coroner’s office next door with a cooler that the hospital staff had access to, but they decided to keep the body in a separate room without a cooler. The body was then transported to an organ procurement agency and they refrigerated the body (approximately eleven hours after the decedent’s death). The body was then transported to where the tissue transplantation was to take place, but the procurement agents were unable to perform the transplantation because of an error in scheduling. The body was then transported to one funeral home where it was embalmed and then it was transported to another funeral home where the funeral took place. By the time the funeral occurred, the body had decomposed to the point where an open casket was not an option. The family of the decedent brought suit against the organ procurement agency, and they alleged that the agency had allowed the body to decompose.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. What procedures and regulations does an organ procurement agency have to follow when preparing a body for organ and tissue procurement?

Expert Witness Response E-004613

As long as procedures meet the AATB (American Association of Tissue Banks), the FDA standards for procurement of tissues, and the procedures were followed, the tissue/organ bank would be operating within control. Additional review of documents would be important to confirm these compliance points, and a detailed timeline of the transportation of the body would help determine if the agency was in compliance. I have over thirty years of experience with tissue banks, and have leadership roles in a number of related, professional organizations, including as the president of an organ procurement organization. I am also a tissue bank specialist and quality auditor, and familiar with the regulations and compliance measures required of the specialty.

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