A premature baby was born at a hospital in Massachusetts and died nearly two weeks later in her mother’s hands following medical complications.
As Alana Ross and Daniel McCarthy prepared to bury their daughter, Everleigh, who was born in Boston on July 25, 2020, they learned her remains were “thrown away” with linens from the morgue, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday, June 23, against Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The couple had been trying to start a family for two years.
Prior to learning their daughter’s remains were lost, a nurse had “promised and assured Daniel that Baby Everleigh’s body would be safe for several days in the morgue,” according to court documents.
When one hospital worker brought the body wrapped in linens to the morgue, another said “you can put it anywhere,” the lawsuit states. As a result, Everleigh’s remains were placed on a metal rack, which “was not the appropriate or designated place for the delivery of infant remains to the morgue,” and she was mistaken for soiled linens, according to the lawsuit.
Everleigh’s body has not been found as of Friday, June 24, an attorney representing the couple, Gregory D. Henning, told McClatchy News.
The lawsuit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, has named 14 hospital employees and said Brigham and Women’s hospital was aware of “problematic conditions” in the morgue and failed to realize the baby’s remains were missing for days and did not protect them.
Dr. Sunil Eappen, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said in a statement provided to McClatchy News that “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.”
“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. We always evaluate both system and human factors that contribute to errors or potential issues raised by patients, family members or staff and take action.”
Meanwhile, the lawsuit also said the hospital “refused” to cooperate with a law enforcement investigation into the disappearance of the baby’s remains.
“The parents have been dealing with the grief and anguish of losing Everleigh ever since August of 2020,” Henning told McClatchy News.
In June 2018, Ross and McCarthy, who have dated for several years and known each other since they were children, decided they wanted to start a family together, according to the lawsuit. Before Everleigh’s birth, they experienced two “heartbreaking” miscarriages.
On Valentine’s Day in 2020, Ross discovered she was pregnant again and sought care at Brigham and Women’s hospital, according to court documents. After overcoming several health and pregnancy-related hurdles, Everleigh was born prematurely with complications in July 2020 and was transported to the newborn intensive care unit.
Roughly five days later, Ross and McCarthy held Everleigh for the first time and read her children’s books, according to the lawsuit.
Eventually, they were told by doctors that treatment options for their baby’s medical complications were “exhausted,” the lawsuit states. Then, Everleigh was baptized shortly before she died on Aug. 6, 2020.
After her death, “nurses collected Baby Everleigh’s memory box, which contained pictures, collages and keepsakes, such as her baptism water,” and the parents “were allowed to say their goodbyes,” according to the lawsuit.
On Aug. 10, funeral home representatives arrived at the hospital to pick up Everleigh’s remains, but the facility never found them, according to her parents.
The search for Everleigh’s body
The lawsuit points out that while the hospital records patient whereabouts through an electronic bracelet scanning system, there were no “procedures in place at (the hospital) to digitally record the delivery of infant remains to the morgue.” Instead, a handwritten “Morgue Log Book” was used.
On Aug. 11, 2020, the Boston Police Department was contacted about Everleigh’s missing remains and began an investigation, according to the lawsuit.
The next day, officers “spent eight hours … digging through blood soaked clothing, feces covered linens and other medical waste at a transfer station searching for Baby Everleigh” to no avail, according to court documents.
During the investigation, Boston police said their detectives were given incomplete hospital video footage of the time when the baby’s remains were placed in the morgue until when it was learned the body was lost, according to a police report.
The lawsuit said the hospital “provided untruthful answers to police questions.”
In Eappen’s statement, he declined to “comment specifically on this case” because of the pending litigation.
Henning told McClatchy News that Ross and McCarthy filed their lawsuit because “they want to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anybody else” and “that no other family has to suffer the same grief and trauma that they have suffered and continue to suffer every single day.”
They want “to find out what happened” and “to find out how this was able to occur.”