Family Awarded $1 Million From Medical Examiner’s Office That Kept Their Son’s Brain


Posted on 27th November 2011 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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Justice sometimes does triumph.

A Staten Island, N.Y., couple has won a $1 million judgment against the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office, which retained their dead son’s brain without their permission or knowledge, the New York Post reported Saturday.

In a macabre twist in an already freaky case, the parents of Jesse Shipley, 17, didn’t discover that they didn’t have his brain until some of his high school friends saw it in a marked jar during a field trip to Staten Island’s morgue.

Jesse was killed in a car crash in January 2005, and was autopsied by the local medical examiner. But the Medical Examiner’s Office returned Jesse’s body to his parents for burial without his brain, without mentioning that little tidbit to the Shipley family. Doctors wanted to perform tests on the organ, according to the Post.

Jesse’s family only learned that their son’s body was missing its brain when they buried it because of the shocking incident during the field trip. That when Jesse’s schoolmates chanced upon his brain in the jar, the Post reported.

Needless to say, the teens told Shipley’s surprised family what they had seen. If that wasn’t disturbing enough, “a Catholic priest told the family that Jesse’s burial wasn’t proper without his brain,” according to the Post.

The family didn’t get the brain back until October 2005, and they subsequently filed suit against the Medical Examiner’s Office. The city was liable, according to a Staten Island Supreme Court judge, under the so-called right of sepulcher, which says that a family is entitled to all the remains of a relative, according to the Post.

The defense didn’t have a leg to stand on. The city apparently contended that Jesse’s father Andre Shipley “would have known his son’s brain were being kept for further testing if he’d known to ask,” the Post reported.


It probably didn’t help the defense’s case, either, when a medical examiner said he keep Jesse’s brain hanging around in a jar because he waits until he has a half dozen brains before calling in a neuropathic examiner to study them, the Post said.

We hope in those other cases that the families knew their loved one’s brains had been withheld from them, unlike the Shipleys.

The Shipleys did lose one legal acton last year, when the family sued claiming that their son’s brain had been displayed unlawfully. An appellate court threw that claim out, the Post reported.     


Family Can Sue Medical Examiner Over Son’s Missing Brain


Posted on 1st October 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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It is a macabre case that shows that truth is often stranger than fiction.

The case involves the brain of Jesse Shipley, 17, a Port Richmond High School student in New York. Shipley was killed in a car accident on Jan. 9, 2005, and his family agreed to an autopsy of the body the next day. The youth’s remains were picked up and a funeral was held three days later.

But two months later, according to The New York Law Journal, fellow students of Shipley’s sister Shannon, who was also hurt in the accident, went on a field trip to the Richmond County Mortuary on Staten Island. And some of the students spotted a human brain in a jar filled with formaldehyde. The jar was marked with the name Jesse Shipley.

New York Appellate Justice William Mastro called the incident “a surreal coincidence,” according to The Law Journal.

Shannon Shipley’s classmates told her about the brain, and she told her parents. They learned that the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office had kept Jesse’s brain to do tests on it, and that those tests were done a day or so after the field trip.

Shipley’s family got a temporary restraining order to stop any additional tests on his brain, which was returned to them. The family held a second funeral for their son, according to The Law Journal. 

The Shipley family sued New York City and the medical examiner’s office in March 2006, asking for damages for the improper handling of their son’s remains. 

Brooklyn’s New York Appellate Division, 2nd Department, recently ruled that the Shipley family has the right to sue the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office for violating their right of sepulcher, for removing and keeping Jesse’s brain without telling the family.