The parents of a premature baby who survived for 12 days are suing a Boston hospital for losing their child’s remains as the grieving family prepared to bury her.
Everleigh Victoria McCarthy was born three months premature at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston on July 25, 2020. She weighed a little under three pounds.
The child suffered “medical complications” after birth and was immediately taken to the neonatal intensive care unit.
Parents Alana Ross and Daniel McCarthy held their daughter for the first time on Aug. 1, 2020, and read the baby her first book “Little Red Riding Hood,” hopeful for her future.
But on Aug. 6, 2020, doctors broke the news that the child would not survive.
McCarthy’s mother baptized Everleigh in her hospital room and the child was taken off a ventilator and died that same day.
On Thursday, Ross and McCarthy filed a lawsuit in Suffolk County Superior Court against the hospital and 14 staffers, citing breach of contract, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and tortious interference with human remains, among other counts.
“Every day, when we wake up, one of the first things that goes through my mind is wondering where our daughter is,” Ross and McCarthy said in a statement via their lawyer.
To date, baby Everleigh’s body has not been found, an attorney for the couple, Greg Henning, said.
What happened to baby Everleigh?
After Everleigh passed away, her parents were promised that the baby’s body would be safe in the hospital morgue as they prepared for her burial, the lawsuit states.
On the evening of August 6, hospital staffers arrived at the hospital morgue with Baby Everleigh and a handwritten entry in the morgue’s log book was made indicating her arrival.
A staffer placed Everleigh’s remains on a metal rack — which the lawsuit describes as “not the appropriate or designated place for the delivery of infant remains to the morgue.”
It was later determined that a pathologist working inside the morgue on August 7 mistook Everleigh’s swaddled body as soiled linen and threw it into a soiled linen receptacle, not realizing the infant was in the bundle, according to the Boston police report.
No one realized baby Everleigh was missing until August 10 when representatives from the Gillooly Funeral Home arrived to the morgue to take custody of her body.
That same day, a representative from the Gillooly Funeral Home called the parents to inform them the baby could not be located at the morgue.
The hospital opened an investigation into the baby’s disappearance and the family of Everleigh also contacted Boston police to report their child’s body had gone missing.
According to the police report, a pathologist who worked in the morgue on August 7 initially told detectives that he did not remove any soiled linens that day.
But on August 12 the hospital’s chief of police notified Boston police investigators that the pathologist later “admitted to seeing the linen on one of the stainless steel trays inside the morgue cooler and disposing of the linen,” the police report said.
Video footage from hospital officials shared with Boston police detectives that same day also showed the pathologist with what is believed to be soiled linen from the morgue that could have possibly contained Everleigh’s body, according to the police report. NBC News has not independently reviewed this footage.
In an interview with hospital officials regarding the footage, the pathologist became “distraught” and said it could be likely he threw away Everleigh in the soiled linen container, not realizing her remains were there, the lawsuit stated.
The pathologist said in an interview with hospital officials the child’s remains were “not left in the right location,” was “wrapped in a blanket” and had “no identifying markers on the outside of the blanket,” the lawsuit stated.
He said that “mistakes of other people who have access to the morgue set [off] a chain of events that were unavoidable,’ lawsuit states.
Boston police said they worked to track down where soiled linens at the morgue were disposed and spent hours on Aug. 12 digging through “blood soaked clothing, feces covered linens and other medical waste” at a waste transfer station. But they couldn’t find baby Everleigh.
The police report also noted that the hospital gave them incomplete information in the investigation, saying, “It should be noted that detectives were not provided the complete video from the time ‘Baby Ross’ arrived at the morgue cooler to the time it was observed that ‘Baby Ross’ was known to be missing.”
The Boston Police Department said the case is considered an inactive investigation and the parents of Everleigh didn’t press charges with the department. Police offered no further comment due to the pending litigation between the family and hospital.
Ross and McCarthy hope their lawsuit will prevent the hospital from losing another loved one's body in a similar manner.
“It was traumatic when she passed away, but we’ve been re-traumatized when we learned that the hospital threw her away like trash,” they said in a statement.
“We think about it every day and we want to ensure nothing like this is ever suffered by another family,” they continued.
Henning said the family is not seeing a specific monetary amount in the lawsuit, noting “all we ask for is a jury trial.”
He also said that Everleigh’s family hasn’t had a formal service for her yet as they are still “dealing with the grief of the loss.”
Brigham and Women’s Hospital chief medical officer Dr. Sunil Eappen, told NBC News on the lawsuit: “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,” Eappen said.
“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. Due to pending litigation, we are unable to comment specifically on this case.”
However, Henning contends, “Based on their review of the investigation, and more importantly the conclusions of the Boston police investigation, it does not appear that the hospital’s conduct could be described in any way as transparent.”