In 2005, 17-year-old Jesse Shipley died in a car crash. His family buried him, but his brain was kept by the Medical Examiner and discovered in a jar two months later by his classmates on a school trip to the mortuary. Now the family has filed a suit against the ME and the city for interfering with their right to give their son a proper burial, and told the Post about having to bury their son twice, as their priest said the first burial was improper without all of Shipley's body parts. "It's bad enough having to bury your kid—it's even worse having to bury him twice, for the reason of someone else's negligence," said his father, Andre Shipley.
Shipley's family buried jars containing his brain and other tissue samples in a small casket on top of the one containing his body, and his mother said, "It's very horrific. Things like this should not be happening." ME Dr. Stephen de Roux released Shipley's body to his family for burial at a Roman Catholic church after completing an autopsy, and though they confirmed he died from a skull fracture, the office did not disclose they had kept his brain for subsequent neuropathic examination.
The legal battle is between the right of MEs to remove organs during an autopsy and Justice William F. Mastro's ruling last week of the "absolute right to the immediate possession of a decedent’s body for preservation and burial." The case is now returning to the Supreme Court on Staten Island for trial to determine whether the right of sepulchre was violated by the ME. Andre Shipley said, "I physically had [his brain] when it was returned to us from the morgue. It's my son. It's part of my son. It's my flesh. It's very upsetting, but what can I have done?"