Woman Loses Appeal for Mother’s Brain

     DETROIT (CN) – A Michigan medical examiner did not violate a woman’s constitutional rights by removing and later incinerating the brain of her mother, the 6th Circuit ruled.



     Karen Waeschle sued Oakland County Medical Examiner Ljubisa Dragovic in 2008 upon learning that after her mother’s death, the doctor kept the woman’s brain for further study and eventually incinerated it along with other medical waste.
     The case eventually made its way to the Michigan Supreme Court, which ruled that, “[a]ssuming the decedent’s brain was removed by a medical examiner to conduct a lawful investigation into the decedent’s cause of death, the decedent’s next of kin does not have a right under Michigan law to possess the brain in order to properly bury or cremate the same after the brain is no longer needed for forensic examination.”
     Dragovic and the other defendants were granted summary judgment in March 2011, a ruling from which Waeschle sought relief and was denied, leading to the appeal placed before a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit.
     The panel rejected Waeschle’s appeal, holding that, “rather than suggesting that there is a genuine issue of material fact, Waeschle and her attorneys continue to make the same legal arguments that have been rejected repeatedly by this court and others.”
     The argument presented by Waeschle involved Whaley v. County of Tuscola, but the panel ruled that “the two cases are distinguishable… [because Whaley] involved the unauthorized harvesting of eyes and corneas for donation purposes, whereas this case concerns the removal of an organ for a lawful investigation.”
     The judges noted that Waeschle based her argument her having a “‘fundamental right to receive and dispose of the body of her deceased mother.’ However… despite Waeschle’s occasional use of the phrase ‘fundamental right’ in her filings before the district court, she never developed an argument on this front, despite several opportunities to do so.”
     In addition to affirming the district court’s dismissal of the case, the panel also denied the defendant’s motion for sanctions against Waeschle, but noted that “today’s opinion shall serve as an admonition… that future failures to acknowledge clear precedent may result in the imposition of sanctions.”

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