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Wife Loses Suit Over Husband's Brain Removal

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on September 29, 2011 6:46 AM

A Maine jury ruled against Anne Mozingo, who had alleged that doctors harvested her husband's brain without her consent.

Mozingo's husband passed away from a brain aneurism in 2000. She said she consented to donate a small brain tissue sample.

Instead, she says she learned five years later that her husband's entire brain had been removed, along with his brain lining, liver, spleen and pituitary gland. All of the organs were packed up and sent to the Stanley Medical Research Institute.

Mozingo filed suit against the research institute in 2005. She claimed she suffered from emotional distress, and accused the company of negligence, fraud and misrepresentation.

Intentional infliction of emotional distress claims usually hinge on several elements:

  • The presence of extreme or outrageous conduct, exceeding all bounds of possible decency.
  • And, the extreme or outrageous conduct must have intentionally or recklessly caused severe emotional distress.

Does removal of a person's brain - without their loved one's consent - constitute extreme and outrageous conduct?

It seems like it could, especially considering the extreme emotional impact that Mozingo allegedly suffered.

Mozingo claimed she had nightmares about her husband's body being mutilated ever since she learned the truth, the AP reports.

Even so, the jury ruled in favor of the research institute. Maybe it was because the jurors determined that she actually had given consent. In which case, the medical center couldn't have "knowingly" or "recklessly" caused the emotional distress. After all, they thought she knew what she was getting herself into.

Anne Mozingo's case is not the only brain-harvesting case from the Stanley Medical Research Institute to come under scrutiny. More than a dozen other lawsuits have been filed against the company in the past, all with similar fact patterns: doctors removed a patient's brain without their kin's consent. Most of these other cases have settled out of court, according to the Washington Post.

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