California hospitals accused of ‘losing’ dead bodies, including 6-month-old fetus

Several hospitals in and around San Francisco are accused of “losing” multiple bodies, allegedly even throwing away the body of a 6-month-old fetus.

The mother of the child, Jillian Monteleone, told NBC Bay Area that the hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, had thrown out the body of the child who died while Monteleone was 6 months pregnant.  An indignant Monteleone stated that the hospital “said it was just labeled ’tissue’ on my chart. How could it be labeled tissue? I was six months pregnant. I have a sonogram of the baby sucking his thumb.”

The hospital asserts that there was a very significant delay by the family to make appropriate arrangements for the body. Monteleone disputes this, saying that she had made very specific arrangements with Good Samaritan for the handling of the body. Monteleone says that arrangements had been made “before I left the hospital.”

Others have accused Good Samaritan of mishandling bodies as well, such as Dana Venosta, who stated that the body of her mother had gone “missing” from the hospital. In a 2019 lawsuit, Venosta accused the hospital of losing the body “because another body was stacked on top of it for days.” The lawsuit was settled out of court with Good Samaritan’s parent company, HCA Healthcare, which did admit that staff failed to follow storage protocols and procedures.

Good Samaritan isn’t alone. Nearby Regional Medical Center in San Jose, also owned by HCA Healthcare, was cited by the state of California in 2019. Inspectors issued the citation to Regional Medical for “[failure] to provide considerate, respectful care to two [separate] patients …this failure resulted in [one of its patient’s] remains being held at a local mortuary for 298 days and [another patient’s] remains being held in the hospital morgue for 108 days,” according to the violation records obtained by NBC Bay Area.

Regarding the great length of time that those bodies were held, Monteleone questioned why her baby was thrown away so quickly by comparison, asking “[i]f they can hold on to remains for that long, how could they not hold onto my baby’s?  How could [they] just not value life?”

A spokeswoman for both hospitals, Janine De La Vega, admitted that their staff should have been more diligent and proactive regarding the transferal of the bodies and issued a statement to NBC Bay Area via email:

“We simply did not live up to our commitment. We can and should have done better. We have investigated these incidents in detail and, as a result, have instituted a number of changes in our policies, processes and oversight to prevent them from happening again… We know that [these incidents] have caused grief to the families involved. For that, we are sincerely sorry.”

However, an anonymous source, an alleged ex-employee told the NBC Bay Area investigation that the issues at Regional Medical, in particular, are not new, but part of an ongoing failure of body processing: “We’d have six bodies and only four refrigerators. The transport orderlies would have to go down and rotate the bodies.  This had nothing to do with staffing issues … just lack of care.”  The source went on to say that “it’s not surprising” that Good Samaritan continues to be plagued by body mishandling issues.

Monteleone was not satisfied with the hospital’s statement, and said that she had never received an apology for the mishandling of her baby, and stated that she will not be going to Good Samaritan again for the birth of the baby she is currently expecting.

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