A Detroit resident has filed a lawsuit against Perry Funeral Home, Detroit Medical Center, Wayne State University and Harper-Hutzel Hospitals, Inc., according to court documents filed in July.
The lawsuit, filed in Wayne County Circuit Court, claims that defendants in the case breached contracts by not properly taking possession of, transporting and or storing the deceased remains of infant bodies after requesting donation for purposes of research.
This comes after 63 infant remains were found inside Perry Funeral Home on Friday, Oct. 19 during a raid led by the Detroit Police Department. The remains were located in unrefrigerated boxes and inside of a deep freezer in the funeral home.
The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) has since revoked the funeral home's license and shut the facility down.
In the lawsuit, it states that the defendant, Rachel Brown, of Detroit, gave birth to a baby girl on Dec. 8, 2014 at Harper-Hutzel Hospital in Detroit. The child died 30 minutes after birth. Shortly after, Brown and her husband were approached by personnel at the hospital and asked about donating their child's remains to Wayne State University Medical School for "purposes of medical education and research, or to have the child's remains transferred to a funeral home for burial."
Brown and her husband donated their child's remains "in the hope that it would assist medical science and research," according to court documents.
The lawsuit claims that the defendants in the case never undertook to facilitate transfer of the infant's body to the medical school. The body was instead left abandoned at the hospital, which is when Perry Funeral Home was asked to take possession of the remains for final disposition.
"Perry Funeral Home took possession of those remains and kept them at the Wayne State Mortuary Science Morgue instead of making final disposition of those remains in a timely manner," said Daniel Cieslak, an attorney representing the family.
Plaintiffs in the case also claim that at no time were they provide documentation or contacted regarding a decision to memorialize the infant's body, whether through cremation or burial.
Wayne State University responded to the lawsuit in a statement that reads:
Wayne State University receives remains in one of two ways. Our Mortuary Science program has provided embalming services for adult remains for Perry Funeral Home, and Generations Funeral and Cremation Services. Until about a year ago, the program also accepted some infant remains from Perry for temporary, secure and respectful shelter. After the disturbing revelations on Oct. 19, Wayne State no longer accepts any remains from Perry.
The School of Medicine Body Bequest Program accepts remains for medical education and scientific medical research, however it does not accept unclaimed fetal or infant remains because a mother’s signature is required on a release form by law.
The Body Bequest Program stopped accepting fetal and infant remains from Hutzel Hospital in June 2015 because the hospital repeatedly failed to deliver remains, or notify the school of remains, in the timeframe necessary for the bodies to be viable for research. Paperwork was also routinely improper or inadequate.
To be clear, the Mortuary Science Program has never been responsible for arrangements or final disposition of remains. The Body Bequest Program prides itself on providing all donated remains with the utmost care and respect, including hosting an annual memorial service to honor those who donated their bodies.
This tragic situation is not a university issue, however our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the affected families.
Detroit Medical Center, Harper-Hutzel Hospital and the owner Perry Funeral Home have not publicly responded to the lawsuit.