“Retained Brain” Case Ends in Summary Judgment

The 6th Circuit on Monday affirmed summary judgment in a bizarre lawsuit against a Michigan medical examiner accused of improperly disposing of the plaintiff’s mother’s body.
Technically, a medical malpractice claim, this case was anything but. The decedent was a 88 year-old woman who hit her head in a nursing home and died two weeks later in the hospital. After her death, the medical examiner performed an autopsy in an effort to determine when the head injury caused the woman’s death. The doctor returned the body but kept the brain for further study. When the family learned that the brain had been kept and then disposed of, she filed a lawsuit.

The District Court certified a question to the Michigan Supreme Court on the issue of a next-of-kin’s property interest in a decedent’s organs following an autopsy. The Michigan high court shot down plaintiff’s claim, finding that a 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. So when the case came back, the trial court granted summary judgment.

I disagree with the decision but on a more fundamental level, why is this lawsuit being filed in the first place?
You can read the full opinion here.

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