Brain-collection practices on trial in Maine

September 22, 2011 By CLARKE CANFIELD , Associated Press

(AP) -- The practices of a prestigious medical research institute that studies schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are on trial in Maine, where the organization collected at least 99 brains from organ donors.

Anne Mozingo, of York, contends that the Stanley Medical Research Institute and a man working on its behalf removed her late husband's entire brain without her consent after he died of a brain aneurism in 2000. She said she agreed to donate only small samples.

Mozingo learned nearly five years after her husband's death that his entire brain - along with its lining, plus his liver, spleen and - had been removed and sent to the institute. She filed suit in 2005 against the Bethesda, Md., institute and its Maine representative, Matthew Cyr.

Her claims include infliction of emotional distress, fraud and negligent misrepresentation. After Mozingo learned that her husband's entire brain had been removed, she suffered extreme emotional and and had nightmares in which her husband's body was being mutilated, she said in court documents.

The lawsuit accused the defendants of acting "beyond all possible bounds of decency."

The institute and Cyr, of Bucksport, deny any wrongdoing. The institute has repeatedly said over the years that it never knowingly obtained brains without full consent from next of kin.

From the mid-1990s to 2003, Stanley Medical Research Institute used a network of "brain harvesters" in Maine and three other states to collect hundreds of brains for use in the study of schizophrenia and . The brains were packed in and shipped by FedEx to the institute.

Cyr, who also worked for the Maine Medical Examiner's Office, was paid more than $150,000 to collect brains and other organs from at least 99 bodies from 1999 to 2003, according to court documents.

Mozingo's lawsuit is one of more than a dozen that were filed against the institute by Maine families alleging that their relatives' full brains were removed without their consent.

Most of the complaints have been settled out of court, but three have gone to trial.

The first one to go resulted in a mistrial in January 2010 after the plaintiff testified that he chose to put the case before a jury because he didn't want to settle. The judge ruled the statement implied to jurors that the defendant was offered a financial settlement to avoid a trial.

A second case went to trial last fall, with the jury siding with Stanley, Cyr and the institute's former executive director, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey.

Mozingo's case began this week in York County Superior Court.

On the first day of the trial, her attorney held up a model of brain as a prop while giving his opening statement. Mozingo told jurors that she was misled and betrayed during a time of grieving and stress. The institute's lawyers questioned her reliance on notes to recount her conversation with Cyr after her husband died.

Mozingo's lawyer, Thomas Douglas, declined to comment on the case because court proceedings were ongoing. Philip Coffin, who represents the institute, also declined to comment.

Mozingo's trial is expected to conclude Friday or Monday, but it likely won't be the final court case.

Portland attorney John Campbell said he expects his client, Ray Martin, of Old Orchard Beach, to have his day in court next spring. Martin's case was the one that ended in a mistrial, and Campbell said it's the last remaining case in Maine.

"Mr. Martin feels very strongly about going back to trial," the attorney said.

Explore further: Seven states join suit against AT&T, T-Mobile deal

shares

Related Stories

Seven states join suit against AT&T, T-Mobile deal

September 16, 2011
Seven US states threw their support on Friday behind the Department of Justice lawsuit seeking to block AT&T's $39 billion takeover of T-Mobile.

Recommended for you

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

'bench to bedside to bench': Scientists call for closer basic-clinical collaborations

March 24, 2017
In the era of genome sequencing, it's time to update the old "bench-to-bedside" shorthand for how basic research discoveries inform clinical practice, researchers from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), National Human Genome Research ...

The ethics of tracking athletes' biometric data

January 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—Whether it is a FitBit or a heart rate monitor, biometric technologies have become household devices. Professional sports leagues use some of the most technologically advanced biodata tracking systems to ...

Financial ties between researchers and drug industry linked to positive trial results

January 18, 2017
Financial ties between researchers and companies that make the drugs they are studying are independently associated with positive trial results, suggesting bias in the evidence base, concludes a study published by The BMJ ...

Best of Last Year – The top Medical Xpress articles of 2016

December 23, 2016
(Medical Xpress)—It was a big year for research involving overall health issues, starting with a team led by researchers at the UNC School of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health who unearthed more evidence that ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.