Waeschle v. Oakland Cnty. Med. Exam'r, No. 11-1878 (6th Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
Following the death of Waeschle’s mother, the medical examiner performed an autopsy to determine the cause of her death. While the mother’s remains were returned to Waeschle, the medical examiner retained the brain for further study without Waeschle’s knowledge. After Waeschle discovered that her mother’s brain had been retained and later incinerated as medical waste, she sued, alleging due process violations. The district court dismissed state law claims but declined to dismiss the due process claim, finding that, under Michigan’s clearly established law, next-of-kin have an interest in their deceased relative’s remains/body parts. Following remand and certification of the question, the Michigan Supreme Court responded that: Assuming that a decedent’s brain was removed by a medical examiner to conduct a lawful investigation into the decedent’s cause of death, the decedent’s next of kin does not have a right under Michigan law to possess the brain in order to properly bury or cremate the same after the brain is no longer needed for forensic examination. The district court entered summary judgment for defendants. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, declining to sanction plaintiff for frivolous appeal.