(NaturalNews) The family of a New York City woman who recently died of old age is threatening to sue after the woman's body was apparently stolen and almost used for medical research without permission. The New York Daily News (NYDN) explains that 85-year-old Aura Ballesteros, who died peacefully in her sleep on May 16, was taken from the Jacobi Medical Center where her body was being stored and moved to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine for "anatomical donation."
Hector Ballesteros, Aura's son, says he obtained permission from the city medical examiner to store the body of his mother at the city morgue until June 16 while he made funeral arrangements with his two sisters who live in Colombia. The city had agreed to these terms, but somehow Ballesteros' body was taken on June 2 from the facility and moved for the intent of being dissected and used for medical research.
"I called the Bronx morgue right away and the person there confirmed they sent the body," explained Hector to The News. "I said, 'You made a mistake,' and he didn't say anything. He did not apologize. I told them I wanted the body back in the same condition (as) how it was."
The transfer was admittedly made in error, but why it occurred is still a mystery. And while Ballesteros' body was not actually dissected, thanks to it being caught in time, the family says it was embalmed without their permission, leaving bruises on her neck and legs and swelling in her face. Hector says after being embalmed, the body did not as closely resemble how his mother looked prior to it.
"The face is changed. I know it's my mother, but she looks different, like another person," he explained. "Supposedly, all the organs and the brain are inside her. I'm totally upset, sad, depressed."
State officials claim the whole thing was just a big mistake, denying liability
While New York state law allows for corpses not claimed by next of kin within 14 days to be donated to medical schools or sent to a nearby burial field without permission, Ballesteros' case had been specially arranged. Because of this, the family is now planning to sue the city for the error, claiming that it has caused them severe emotional distress.
"The city medical examiner's office has a sacred responsibility and needs to reexamine its procedures so this never happens again," stated Sanford Rubenstein, the family's attorney, to The News. "Obviously it was negligence ... carelessness, recklessness."
Chief medical examiner's office spokeswoman Julie Bolcer told the media that while Ballesteros' body was, in fact, embalmed, without permission, it was not actually dissected. It was merely a mistake, she claims, as morgue workers apparently failed to observe the special hold notice that was placed on the body, resulting in it being transferred by default.
"Appropriate personnel actions are being taken to ensure such a mistake doesn't happen again," added Barbara Butcher, the office's chief of staff, as quoted by NBC News.