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If I Only Had a... Brain Found In Bag from Funeral Home in NM

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on January 11, 2010 12:15 PM

If any story truly meets the definition of legally weird, this is it. After her funeral, the family of a recently deceased woman received a bag of what the DeVargas Funeral Home in New Mexico loosely termed "personal effects." Unconcerned, one family member reportedly left the bag in the back of his truck for a few days. That turned out to be mistake. An unpleasant smell finally attracted the notice of others in the family who, upon investigation found among the clothes, jewelry and wallet of the deceased, a clear plastic bag marked: "brain." "They knew what they had," clarified the family attorney, Richard Valle. The family is suing.

News sources report that it is actually a common practice for an organ, such as a brain, to be packed in a separate bag if it becomes disclocated from the body at the time of death. What is less common of course, is for said organ to be handed off to the grieving family like an extra pair of shoes, unneeded by the deceased. The family's suit includes both the Serenicare Funeral Home in Utah, who originally handled the body after the car accident that claimed the woman's life, and the DeVarges Funeral Home in New Mexico, who made the funeral preparations. Finger pointing ensued.

Serenicare claims that they placed the brain, snugly encased in its bag, inside the casket with the body for shipment to New Mexico. Serenicare owner Dick Johnson adds that the family is usually encouraged to let the funeral home "discard" the bagged organ, rather than take it home. One would image that, given the choice, they would follow this advice. The DeVarges people in New Mexico beg to differ. "In the end, we inherited the problem from Utah," owner Johnny DeVargas told the Albuquerque Journal. "We are a very reputable company and we were dealt a bad hand."

Thankfully, the woman's brain now rests peacefully with the rest of her remains. Attorney Valle says the family remains distraught. "They're angry, this just isn't right," Valle said of his clients. "Even [author] Stephen King wouldn't write something like this. It's too morbid, even for him," he added.

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