Oklahoma family seeks answers after company loses father’s body donated for medical research

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Jesse Hall said his father had been ill, but when he passed away in September 2018, his death still came as a shock.

“My father died so young and he was 63,” he said in an interview with KFOR on Wednesday.

Pictured: Elgie Hall Sr., before her death. Image courtesy of Jesse Hall

Hall said he and his sisters began planning a memorial and wanted to honor their father’s dying wish by donating his body for medical research and education.

Working with United Tissue Network, a non-profit whole body donation organization, the family agreed to donate the body on the condition that the cremated remains be returned to them after two years.

They consented to a two-year placement as a full-body cadaver specimen, a program the company is designed for gross anatomy labs and classrooms in medical schools and universities.

The nonprofit organization uses human tissue for a variety of programs, including physician training, surgical training, device and drug research and development, according to its website.

At the end of the two-year agreement, donors are supposed to be cremated locally and the ashes returned to United Tissue Network and then to the family if requested.

Hall says he and his sisters eventually hoped to scatter their father’s ashes in one of his favorite places, but were then dismayed to learn that due to a mistake their father’s remains had been scattered on a Caribbean island instead.

“We [were] down three lanes and my little sister started bawling,” he said. “And I’ve never heard her cry like that, ever.” And she told us that they had lost dad. And I was like, ‘What do you mean, they lost daddy?’ »

Pictured: Toni Sullivan (l), Jesse Hall (c) and Cheree Bowman (r). Image courtesy of Jesse Hall

“It really is a big mess,” he added. “I mean [they] lost a human being.

The family said they were initially led to believe that their father’s ashes had been scattered in the Caribbean Sea; however, in an emailed statement to KFOR on Wednesday, a UTN representative offered a different explanation.

“The donor in this case transferred to the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine on Sint Maarten in November 2018,” the company’s general counsel statement read in part.

“Unfortunately, when United Tissue Network inquired about the status of the cremation and the expected return of the cremated remains, we discovered that the donor’s cremated remains had been mistakenly buried in a local cemetery, rather than returned to United. Tissue Network as originally agreed.. There was some initial confusion as university staff initially reported that the remains had been scattered at sea. was contacted directly about the disposal revealed that the cremated remains were in fact interred in a joint ceremonial burial at a local cemetery.

United Tissue Network General Counsel Hal Ezzell went on to say that the event was unique in the program’s 13-year history, also adding that during an internal investigation they “determined that the reason the The most likely error was the university closure and staff turnover during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“[We] deeply regrets that we were ultimately unable to return the ashes of their loved ones to the family as planned,” Ezzell said in the statement.

“They apologized [when the incident happened]and [they said] if there is anything they can do for us, contact them. That’s what they said. And they left it at that,” Hall said. “Maybe they [United Tissue Network] learned something from it…hope they did.

The family sued the company, citing breach of contract, negligence and intentionally inflicted emotional suffering.

“Obviously we’re not going to collect the ashes,” Hall added. “We’re going through hardships…I just want resolution.”

The case is set for a civil trial, but a hearing date has not yet been set.


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