EXCLUSIVES
FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle+RSS Feed
Fire EMSEMS TodayEMS Insider

Lawsuit States Ambulance Company Dissected Man's Brain

SAN MATEO, Calif. -- The San Mateo County coroner is being sued for a second time over the handling of body parts, this time defending its right to let an ambulance company dissect a man's brain.

In 2010, a state appeals court dismissed a case against the coroner after the mother of a Daly City man accused the office of improperly withholding her son's heart for testing after he had died of heart failure.

Lawyers for San Mateo County have asked that the new case also be tossed out, and a Superior Court judge is expected to issue a tentative ruling today.

That case involves a New York couple accusing Coroner Robert Foucrault and his office of negligence for letting an ambulance company take and dissect the brain of their 30-year-old son after he was killed in a 2008 auto accident.

Lawyers representing the county say the coroner was simply complying with a subpoena to release brain tissue for analysis by the American Medical Response ambulance company, which wanted to gather forensic information to defend itself in a separate, wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the man's parents. That suit has since been settled.

Complying with such subpoenas by allowing a third party to dissect tissue is "very routine," said David Levy, the deputy county counsel representing Foucrault and the coroner's office.

Jerald and Sandy Wolkoff allege that the coroner was negligent in allowing the ambulance company to take their son's brain and cut it apart. They say they have suffered emotional distress and will have to reopen their son's grave. They are asking for unspecified monetary damages to pay the cost of travel, religious services and reburying their son.

Observant Jews, the Wolkoffs say in their lawsuit that unless dissection is done for urgent, medical reasons, it is "considered a matter of shame and gross dishonor" in their faith.

Steven Wolkoff was killed on June 21, 2008, as he drove north on Highway 1 in San Mateo County. A southbound car had slammed into a vehicle waiting to turn left onto Green Oaks Way, pushing it into oncoming traffic where it hit Steven Wolkoff's car.

American Medical Response paramedics treated him at the scene but were unable to save his life. The Wolkoffs sued the ambulance company, alleging that a procedure paramedics conducted with a needle to help their son breathe caused brain damage and contributed to his death, said the family's attorney, Jayme Burns.

The subpoena from American Medical Response requested "pathology slides" and "tissue blocks" from Steven Wolkoff's brain.

What happened next is the crux of the dispute.

Burns said the family believed American Medical Response would examine Steven Wolkoff's remains at the coroner's office, where his brain had remained intact after an authorized autopsy.

Once the coroner gave the material to the ambulance company, however, "the brain stem was sliced and cut into approximately 20 pieces," according to the lawsuit.

Judge V. Raymond Swope is expected to issue a tentative ruling by 3 p.m. today on whether the case can proceed.
 



RELATED ARTICLES

Floodwaters Deepen in Houston

A total of 17 people have died due to storms in Texas and Oklahoma.

Survey of Virginia Firefighters, Medics Finds Low Morale

Roanoke County survey is part of the search process for a new fire chief.

Two Killed, Three Injured When Elevated Lift Overturns in New Mexico

Man and a boy dead, three children injured when cherry picker fell over during demonstration.

Over 40 Missing as Flood Waters Rise in Texas

Firefighters in Houston carried out over 500 water rescues.

Colorado River Fire Rescue Saves 100 Hours a Month After Implementing Aladtec’s Workforce Management System for Public Safety

The three days a week this agency saves is now focused on community outreach.

Twister Kills 13 in Mexico Border City

Tornado strikes city on U.S. – Mexico border destroying homes.

Features by Topic

Featured Careers

 

JEMS TV

FEATURED VIDEO TOPICS

Learn about new products and innovations featured at EMS Today 2015

 

JEMS Connect

CURRENT DISCUSSIONS

 
 

EMS BLOGS

Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts