BOSTON (AP) — A Massachusetts couple whose prematurely born baby girl died less than two weeks after she was delivered has sued one of Boston's most prestigious hospitals for losing the infant's body, denying the parents the opportunity to hold a proper funeral and burial.
The lawsuit filed Thursday says that baby Everleigh's body was inadvertently thrown away by a Brigham and Women's Hospital employee along with soiled linens from the hospital's morgue.
Everleigh's parents, Alana Ross and Daniel McCarthy, “suffered severe emotional distress and anguish, and have suffered physical manifestations and harms as a result of the severe and profound emotional distress inflicted” upon them, according to the suit filed in Suffolk Superior Court.
“It was traumatic enough to lose their daughter, but it was like losing her all over again when she was literally thrown away," the couple's attorney, Greg Henning, said Friday. "They lost her twice.”
The hospital, parent company Mass General Brigham, as well as more than a dozen employees are named as defendants. The suit claims breach of contract, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress; and wrongful interference with human remains. The couple, who live in Sharon, is seeking more than $1.3 million in damages, according to court documents.
The lawsuit alleges that Brigham and Women’s was aware of the “problems with management and conditions” at the morgue even before Everleigh went missing.
Dr. Sunil Eappen, the hospital's chief medical officer, said in a statement that while he cannot comment on the specifics of the case, he sympathizes with the family.
“We continue to express our deepest sympathies and most sincere apologies to the Ross and McCarthy family for their loss and the heartbreaking circumstances surrounding it," he said. “As with any instance in which there is a concern raised related to our standard of care or practice, we readily and transparently shared the details with the patient’s family."
McCarthy, 37, and Ross, 36, who have been in a committed relationship for years and were engaged in 2019, were “thrilled” when they found out on Feb. 20, 2020, that Ross was pregnant after multiple attempts to have a child, Henning said.
Everleigh was delivered prematurely on July 25, 2020, weighing 2 pounds, 5 ounces (1 kg). She “suffered medical complications” and was transferred to intensive care.
Her parents held Everleigh for the first time on Aug. 1, read to her, maintained a constant vigil, and had her baptized before she died in her mother's arms on Aug. 6, 2020.
Her swaddled body was transferred to the hospital morgue to give Ross and McCarthy a few days to make funeral arrangements. But, according to the suit, a hospital employee placed the baby on a table that was “not the appropriate or the designated place for the delivery of infant remains to the morgue,” because another worker was blocking the racks designed for children.
Apparently, no one knew the baby was missing until Aug. 10 when a funeral home representative arrived at the hospital to pick up the body. Everleigh could not be found.
Her parents contacted Boston police on Aug. 11, who investigated and determined, through video surveillance and employee interviews, that Everleigh was likely thrown away with soiled linens from the morgue on Aug. 7.
Police traced where the body might have ended up, and on two occasions police investigators as well as trash company workers sifted through mountains of medical debris often covered in blood and human waste to find Everleigh, to no avail.
McCarthy and Ross are faithful Catholics and wanted a proper funeral and burial for their daughter so they always had a place they could visit her, Henning said.
Now all they have is a box containing a few photos, baptismal water, handprints, footprints and a knit hat.