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.
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.
In partnership with United Tissue Network, a nonprofit whole-body donation organization, the family agreed to donate the body on the condition that the cremated remains are returned to them after two years.
They agreed to a two-year placement as a full-body cadaver specimen, a program the company has designed for gross anatomy labs and classes at medical schools and colleges.
The nonprofit uses human tissue for a variety of programs, including physician training, surgical training, device research and development, and drugs, according to its website.
At the conclusion of the two-year agreement, it is assumed that donors will be cremated on site and the ashes will be returned to United Tissue Network and then to the family if they request it.
Hall says he and his sisters hoped to eventually scatter their father’s ashes in one of his favorite spots, but were later stunned to learn that an error had caused their father’s remains to be scattered on an island in the Caribbean. area.
“We [were] on three-way and my sister started to roar,’ he said. “And I’ve never heard her cry like that. And she told us they had lost father. And I thought, ‘What do you mean, they’ve lost father?’”
“It’s really a big mess,” he added. “I mean [they] lost a person.”
The family said they initially thought their father’s ashes were scattered in the Caribbean Sea; however, in a statement emailed to KFOR Wednesday, a UTN representative offered a different explanation.
“The donor in this case was transferred to the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine in Sint Maarten in November 2018,” the statement from the company’s general council reads 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 sent back to United Tissue Network as originally agreed. † There was some confusion at first, as university staff initially reported that the remains had been scattered at sea. However, UTN’s internal investigation, which involved contacting the crematorium directly about the disposition, revealed that the cremated remains were, in fact, interred in a communal ceremonial burial at a local cemetery.”
United Tissue Network general counsel Hal Ezzell further said the incident was unique in the program’s 13-year history, also adding that in an internal investigation they “determined that the most likely reason for the was the university closure and staff turnover during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
†[We] We deeply regret that we were ultimately unable to return the ashes of their loved ones to the family as expected,” Ezzell said in the statement.
“They apologized [when the incident happened]and [they said] if they can do anything for us, to contact them. That’s what they said. And they left it at that,” Hall says. “Maybe They Are” [United Tissue Network] learned something from it… hopefully they did too.’
The family has sued the company for breach of contract, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“Obviously we’re not getting the ashes back,” Hall added. “We go through trials … I just want determination.”
The case is set for a civil trial, but a court date has not yet been set.
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