A Philadelphia family is suing Temple University Hospital, claiming staff removed their deceased mother’s internal organs against her and their wishes.
According to the lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania state court, 85 year old Essie Cooper’s organs were removed and kept by the hospital during an autopsy.
“They took her kidneys, they took her heart, they took every organ that she had out of her body,” son Van Cooper said.
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The lawsuit says the Cooper family repeatedly refused requests by hospital staff to donate their mother’s organs because it was against her religious beliefs.
Temple University Hospital spokesman Jeremy Walter said he couldn’t comment because of privacy regulations.
“Due to HIPPA privacy regulations, we are not able to comment,” Walter wrote in an email to the NBC 10 Investigators. “However, I would suggest you contact the family and obtain a copy of the consent to autopsy that they spoke to you about.”
“The first thing Temple’s going to say out of their mouth is ‘he signed that piece of paper,’ Van Cooper said. “Well what they’re not going to say is the fact for four or five hours that I said we didn’t want it done.”
The Cooper’s lawsuit asserts Temple University Hospital didn’t tell them that consenting to an autopsy meant, “Essie Cooper’s organs would be disposed of as waste” or “used for educational purposes and not returned to her body.”
The Coopers claim the consent to autopsy form was blank when Van Cooper signed it.
“The part that says restrictions, never saw that,” Van Cooper said. “It wasn’t there when I signed it.”
According to the Pennsylvania Association of Pathologists less than six percent of those who die in hospitals have an autopsy.
“In a teaching hospital they might take more of the whole organs because it’s for residents education and learning from it,” President of the Pennsylvania Association of Pathologists Nancy Young said. “So that their able to know how to do this procedure.”
Young said there are medical reasons organs may not be returned to the body after an autopsy. She said it can take weeks to prepare and analyze certain organs. She said that’s longer than most families are will to wait for a funeral.
Nationally, pathologists from the American Society of Clinical Pathology said it is rare not place organs back in the body after an autopsy.
The Coopers are asking for more than $50,000 in damages from Temple University Hospital.