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Published reports: Organs allegedly taken from Alabama inmates without permission

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The families of Alabama prison inmates have filed lawsuits alleging that organs were harvested from the bodies of dead inmates, often against the wishes of relatives. CNN and the Courthouse News Service report Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Q. Hamm and the University of Alabama Birmingham are named in the suits.

The first of the lawsuits was filed on behalf of the family of inmate Jim William Kennedy, who died last year at Alabama’s Limestone Correctional Facility. The funeral home that received the prisoner’s remains reportedly told the family that the body was in “a severely damaged state,” all of his major organs were missing, and some bones were broken.

The action reportedly came that same year that relatives of deceased prisoner Brandon Dotson filed a federal lawsuit that claimed his scalp was peeled back and his heart was missing following a state autopsy. The families of inmates Arthur Oren Stapler and Anthony Pere Brackins took similar legal actions.

The families told reporters that an agreement for autopsy service between the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Department of Corrections has been in effect since 2005. UAB reportedly was paid just over $2,000 for each procedure that was performed.

UAB told CNN that the agreement between the two state institutions establishes that it’s the responsibility of Alabama Department of Corrections to obtain permissions from the legal representatives of deceased inmates. The network reports the situation has resulted in “finger pointing” between the two entities, as to who is supposed to authorize autopsies under the agreement. Both UAB and the DOC declined further comment since the legal action is ongoing.

Earlier this year, Democratic Alabama State Representative Chris England of Tuscaloosa wrote legislation to make it a felony for a medical examiner to retain a deceased person's organs without the family’s consent.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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