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Flanzig and Flanzig in The New York Post

Medical Examiner's office kept Brooklyn baby's brain after autopsy

July 23, 2012

A Brooklyn mom already dealing with the searing pain of losing her child at birth was stunned to get a macabre call from a doctor hours after the boy's funeral — telling her that the city Medical Examiner's Office still had the just-buried infant's brain.

"She said, 'Oh, I forgot to tell you the brain was missing,' " recalled Cindy Bradshaw about that May 4 call from Dr. Rachel Lange, four days after Bradshaw and her husband collected their son Gianni's body."And she said that like she had known me for many years and we were having a casual conversation," Bradshaw, 32, said of Lange, a forensic pathologist in the ME's Office."I was really shocked," said Bradshaw, who recently filed a notice of claim against the city, the Medical Examiner's Office and Lange, setting the stage for a lawsuit.

The Crown Heights resident was even more shocked after learning that Gianni — whose brain had to be cremated at additional cost to the family after it was returned — is at least the fourth person whose brain had been retained by the Medical Examiner's Office without their families knowledge after an autopsy.

Last November, the family of Jesse Shipley, a 17-year-old Staten Island boy killed in a 2005 car crash, won a $1 million award from a jury that had heard evidence that his family learned his brain was missing only when it was spotted, labeled with his name, by his classmates on a field trip to a Staten Island morgue. The city is appealing that verdict.

"This is wrong, and somebody needs to do something about it. Something needs to change," said Bradshaw. "Someone's not doing their job."

Bradshaw, who has a 3-year-old son, said the primary goal of her planned lawsuit is to get the city to reform the way it deals with families in her situation.

Her lawyer, Daniel Flanzig, noting "that this was not the first time that something like this occurred," argued that there is something seriously awry in the Medical Examiner's Office.

The office has had a policy since late 2010 of requiring people to be told if relatives' brains have been kept when the body is returned.

But Flanzig noted, "Despite prior incidents, prior lawsuits, changes in protocols, and exposure about these events in the press, it amazingly still continues to occur" that corpses are returned to families without brains, and without notification.

An ME's spokesman referred questions to the city Law Department, where a spokeswoman said only that "the city shares its greatest sympathy with the family on their loss."