Alabama's Most Prominent Hospital Accused of Organ Harvesting

UAB Ends Contract for State Prison Autopsies Amidst Organ Theft Allegations

Alabama's Most Prominent Hospital Accused of Organ Harvesting

{TheChronicle exclusive} –UAB Hospital’s pathology department will no longer conduct autopsies of deceased state inmates following the termination of its contract with the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), the hospital announced Monday. This decision comes in the wake of a lawsuit filed by the families of five inmates who allege that UAB illicitly removed organs during autopsies.

The families claim that their loved ones, who were incarcerated at Limestone Correctional Facility or The Hamilton Aged and Infirmed Center, died over the past several years and had their autopsies performed by UAB. Upon receiving the bodies, funeral directors discovered missing organs, with one inmate's body sent directly for a private autopsy revealing the same issue.

According to the lawsuits, UAB took and kept the organs without the consent of the inmates’ next-of-kin. Testimonies from a federal court hearing earlier this year revealed that all deceased individuals in custody undergo autopsies, some conducted by UAB and others by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. None of the families had given permission for the organs to be retained by UAB.

The families of Arthur Olen Stapler, Jim William Kennedy, Anthony Perez Brackins, Kelvin Lamar Moore, and Charles Singleton are suing the ADOC, the University of Alabama system, which operates UAB, and other associated individuals. The lawsuits allege a lack of transparency and differing responses from UAB’s Pathology Department regarding the retention of organs. Two families managed to retrieve their loved ones’ organs from UAB, but not without difficulty.

Kelvin Moore's family received a sealed red bag containing his organs after initially being told that UAB’s policy was not to return organs post-autopsy. Arthur Olen Stapler's family hired a private pathologist who retrieved some, but not all, of his organs from UAB.

According to the Kennedy family’s lawsuit, a UAB representative stated that the Pathology Department routinely retains organs, citing UAB’s status as a teaching institution.

UAB defended its practices, stating, “While the UAB Department of Pathology has been in compliance with laws governing autopsies to determine the cause of death of incarcerated individuals under the appropriate clinical standard – and a panel of medical ethicists reviewed and endorsed our protocols regarding autopsies conducted for incarcerated persons – we have terminated our contract with the Alabama Department of Corrections and no longer perform autopsies for ADOC.” The hospital emphasized its high-ranking pathology program and accreditation status.

Attorney Lauren Faraino, representing several families, asserted that the contract termination does not affect the ongoing litigation. “The damage to those families has already been done,” she said. “The law clearly required medical examiners to get proper consent for organ removal during autopsies, and UAB did not.”

The lawsuits followed another high-profile case involving the family of Brandon Clay Dotson, who alleged that his heart was missing when his body was returned. This lawsuit was dismissed last month without the family ever learning the heart's whereabouts, after a joint stipulation of dismissal was filed.

UAB has declined to comment further beyond their initial statement.