Misplaced body was buried under another man's name, Mass. officials say

Saturday, May 5, 2007

BOSTON -- A body that was misplaced by the state medical examiner's office was buried under the name of another man, and the individual originally believed to have been buried was still in the office, officials said Friday.

When the body in the office was discovered, state police dug up the grave and found Thomas E. Brissette, whose body had been missing, the state Executive Office of Public Safety said.

The misplacement of the body led Gov. Deval Patrick on Thursday to place the state's chief medical examiner, Dr. Mark Flomenbaum, on a paid leave of absence pending an investigation.

The medical examiner's office reported Thursday it could not find Brissette's body, which had been taken to the state pathology lab April 23 and autopsied the next day.

The public safety office ordered state police to take over the investigation, and officials said Friday they found that Brissette's body was mistakenly released to a funeral home April 25 and buried. The identity of the second man was not released.

"The public and the family of Mr. Brissette deserve a full accounting of how this happened, how it will be addressed and how we proceed to ensure this never happens again," said Kurt Schwartz, acting secretary of public safety, in a statement.

Flomembaum did not immediately return a message left at his office after business hours on Friday. Messages left for people believed to be relatives of Brissette were not returned.

In March, Public Safety Secretary Kevin Burke ordered the medical examiner's office to clear a backlog of bodies stored there. A shortage of storage space forced workers to stack corpses and place some in a refrigerated truck meant to be used temporarily.

Flomenbaum took over the office in 2005 after it was accused of sending the wrong set of eyes for tests to determine whether an infant died of shaken baby syndrome, and of misidentifying a fire victim's body. He had vowed to increase staff, clean up the office and perform more autopsies.

Boston pathologist Dr. Frederick R. Bieber will serve in the post on an interim basis, Patrick announced Friday.

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