Body returned without organs inside after autopsy
NEW YORK (WABC) -- A family is confused and upset after the body of their elderly relative was released to them following an autopsy without her organs inside.
The funeral director says he's never seen anything like it, and now the family's wondering if the organs are even hers.
At an emotional graveside service in Westchester County last week, the family of 82-year-old Rhoda Callwood tried to carry on as if nothing were wrong.
But there was nothing right about this burial.
The elderly woman's empty body placed in a casket with her organs next to her.
Callwood's family is so outraged at the indignity following her death they asked Eyewitness News to share their story so others don't suffer the same disrespect.
"I am so confused with everything going on, I don't have time to mourn, really," said Glenda Callwood, Rhoda's daughter.
"The body arrived to the funeral home in the New York City Medical Examiner's body bag, but the organs were separated. The organs were in two plastic containers separate from the body," said Bill Curran, Funeral Director.
Eyewitness News obtained the photos. It's hard to believe, but Mrs. Callwood's body was actually moved twice without her organs inside. Both followed autopsies.
At the family's request the body was moved from the hospital where she died to the city Medical Examiner's office, but when they opened her up, there were no organs.
Investigators had to go collect them the next day. Then, the funeral director got the body.
"I have been a funeral director for 20 years now and I have never seen a body transferred without the organs inside," Curran said.
The Medical Examiner's office argues it didn't want to open up Mrs. Callwood's body yet again when the funeral director would likely have to prepare her for burial.
"Would they want their mother treated this way after an autopsy?" said Glenn Callwood, Rhoda's son.
The family has now hired an attorney.
"It's not the Medical Examiner's office to decide to throw in the organs that may or may not belong to the mother into two buckets and then deliver them that way. The family is horrified now," said Bonita Zelman, the Callwood family attorney.
The family has had DNA samples taken to make sure the organs do match.
In the end, because of all the delays, because the funeral service had already been scheduled, Rhoda Callwood's relatives buried her not the way they wanted, not whole, and it is an empty feeling.
"How can you get away with it? You should not be able to do this ever again to another family," Glenda Callwood said.
The hospital's only comment, "We sympathize with the family in the loss of their loved one. The Medical Examiner's office says it didn't intend to add to the family's grief, but that their normal protocol is to put organs back in bodies."
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