WVU med school, hospital sued for sending wrong ashes to family

By Lawrence Smith | Aug 27, 2010

PARKERSBURG –- A teaching moment for staff and students at West Virginia University's medical school is now one for their colleagues and friends at the law school following the med school's alleged failure to properly return the remains of a Wood County's woman to her family for burial.

The WVU School of Medicine is named as a co-defendant in a lawsuit filed in Wood Circuit Court by three family members of Eileen Haislop. In their complaint filed on July 26, Edward IV, Victor and Thomas Haislop, Eileen's sons, allege WVUSOM, after using her body for scientific research, returned the ashes of a stranger instead of Eileen's for interment.

Along with WVUSOM, WVU Hospitals and John Does 1-3 are named as co-defendants. Both WVUSOM and WVUH are part of WVU's Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center.

According to the suit, Eileen Haislop died on April 6, 2009, after battling cancer. According to her obituary, Haislop, 70, a native of Tarrytown, N.Y., was a guidance counselor and history teacher at Parkersburg High School.

Prior to her death, Haislop made the decision to have her body donated to WVUSOM and WVUH. According the suit, she made the decision "in hopes that students and/or professors may learn something about the cancer that took her life."

The agreement called for Haislop's body to be cremated and the ashes returned to her family. Her remains would then be interred in accordance with her Roman Catholic beliefs.

According to the suit, Catholic doctrine requires cremated remains "to be placed in the ground or in a mausoleum with an appropriate Roman Catholic funeral mass."

On a date not specified in court records, WVUSOM and WVUH took custody of Haislop's body. The sons maintain they made the transfer with the understanding WVUSOM and WVUH would honor their mother's wishes.

On July 28, 2009, Edward, who lives in Parkersburg, received a package from Tiffany Rohrbaugh with WVU's Neurobiology and Anatomy Department. The package contained a cardboard box that "purportedly contained Eileen Haislop's cremated remains."

In order to accommodate Victor and Thomas, who live in Arkansas and South Carolina, respectively, and other immediate family members, Edward arranged for Eileen's funeral to take place on March 27. Following the funeral mass, her remains were placed in the columbarium at the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Parkersburg.

The next day, Edward alleges he discovered a white paper at the bottom of the cardboard box that contained the remains. Believing it was his mother's death certificate; Haislop read it only to discover it was that of a man named Darrell Shirley.

The suit is unclear was to what actions Edward, Victor and Thomas did next. However, they aver "Eileen Haislop's remains cannot be located or identified."

Because of that, the Haislop's maintain they cannot provide Eileen "with proper interment as contemplated in her agreement with the named defendants, and as required by her religious beliefs and faith, which her family has a right and moral duty to implement and honor following her death." Interring the remains of someone else has led them to incur "annoyance, inconvenience, aggravation, severe emotional distress, mental anguish, sorrow, worry, anxiety, physical pain and suffering and psychological trauma."

The Haislops seek unspecified damages, attorney fees and court costs. They are represented by Vienna attorney Todd Wiseman and Harry G. Deitzler with the Charleston law firm of Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee and Deitzler.

The case is assigned to Judge Robert A. Waters.

Wood Circuit Court case number 10-C-317

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