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Missouri Family Files Lawsuit After Funeral Home Returns Loved One’s Brain in a Cardboard Box

— December 15, 2023

“Essentially,” a Baue Funeral Home employee allegedly said, “you guys were given a box that contains Fred’s brain by mistake.”

A Missouri family has filed a lawsuit against a local funeral home, claiming they were traumatized after opening an unusual cardboard box accompanying the cremated remains of the late Fred Love Jr.

According to NBC News, the lawsuit was filed this past October in the Circuit Court of St. Louis City. In their complaint, the family recalls how, after Love’s death in 2022, they traveled to Simpson Funeral Home in Springfield to retrieve Love’s ashes and clothing. They were given an urn, as well as a cardboard box that purportedly contained Love’s entire brain.

Love’s stepdaughter, who opened the box, said that she still suffers severe headaches after being exposed to a toxic embalming chemical used on the brain.

Attorneys for the family have since suggested that Love’s remains were repeatedly mishandled, to the point that his relatives realized something was wrong as soon as they arrived at the Simpson Funeral Home’s chapel for an open-casket service on October 3, 2022.

Love, adds NBC News, had passed away just over a week earlier, having suffered a sudden collapse at his Missouri home.

One of Love’s stepchildren had, for instance, noticed that skin “was a bruised purple color,” which the lawsuit attributes to “poor embalming practices.”

“Further, certain rods used during tissue donation, which are to be removed after the donation and before presentation of a body during a funerary service, were negligently and recklessly left in the body of the decedent and presented to the family,” the complaint states. “These rods created an unnatural and rigid appearance to an already poorly handled embalming presentation.”

The family was already upset that the American flag draped over Love’s casket was “wrinkled and unpressed,” unfitting for a man who “was a veteran of the United States Armed Forces, and retired from the military with the rank of Captain.”

Image of Surgical Tools
Surgical Tools; image courtesy of rawpixel via Pixabay,

After the funeral, on October 6, Love’s wife, son, and stepdaughter went back to Simpson Funeral Home to retrieve his ashes. There, they were given several items, including an urn with Love’s ashes and “a plastic sack containing a cardboard box and articles of Fred’s clothing.”

The family did not open the “plastic sack” on their six-hour drive home, but Love’s stepdaughter reportedly complained of “an extremely pungent chemical smell” emanating from the container.

The box, which was marked “biohazard,” was placed into the garage, where it was left undisturbed for another several days.

Love, adds the lawsuit, had been organ donor.

So, as the chemical smell persisted, the family grew increasingly concerned but avoided opening the box for fear that St. Louis-based Mid-America Transplant—a non-profit that handles organ and tissue donations—may have inadvertently left lab work inside of the box.

Eventually, they took the container to Baue Funeral Home, which had handled the original embalming of Love’s remains. The lawsuit states that, after looking inside, a staff member told the family that “essentially you guys were given a box that contains Fred’s brain by mistake by the funeral home.”

The staff member said that the brain had been removed for a partial autopsy, and that the smell was most likely caused by embalming chemicals—chemicals that the funeral home insisted were not toxic.

Representatives from Baue Funeral Home and Mid-America Transplant have broadly denied liability for the incident.

“We are a first-class funeral home that has been serving the St. Louis community for many years,” said David Bub, an attorney for Baue Funeral Home.

Kevin Lee, the president and C.E.O. of Mid-America Transplant, emphasized that every allegation detailed in the lawsuit transpired after Love’s body had left their care.

“We have standard protocols that we consistently follow through the donation process to ensure we honor the integrity and dignity of the heroic individuals who say ‘yes’ to organ and tissue donation,” Lee said.

The lawsuit is seeking damages in excess of $25,000, as well as an admission of fault of policy changes.

“Collectively,” the Loves said, “we have never heard of this occurring to another family and thus we are uniquely alone in seeking answers.”


Funeral home gives family their loved one’s brain in a box ‘by mistake,’ suit says 

Missouri funeral home gave family their loved one’s brain in cardboard box, lawsuit says

Petition No. 2322-CC09382 in the Circuit Court of St. Louis City

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