Widow: Husband's eyes removed without consent
Posted August 10, 2010
Updated August 19, 2010
HENDERSON, N.C. — Henderson police are investigating a Warrenton woman's allegations that her late husband’s eyes were removed without permission.
Elven "Bob" Alston, 61, died Feb. 13 at Maria Parham Medical Center in Henderson, and his widow, Linda McMichael, said that he had strong religious beliefs against organ donation.
McMichael said that, based on the way his body looked after death, she believes his eyes might have been harvested for cornea donation.
Lt. Chris Ball of the Henderson Police Department declined to say whether police have determined if parts of Alston's eyes had been removed, saying only "the investigation is ongoing."
McMichael said she hopes the investigation will bring some sense of closure.
"I have an inner feeling, but 100 percent certainty I do not have at this point, which I seek," she said.
David Ruggles, director of marketing for Maria Parham Medical Center, said in a statement Tuesday that Carolina Donor Services was notified of Alston's death, as mandated by state protocol. Neither the hospital nor Carolina Donor Services removed his eyes, however, he said.
"They were intact when his body was released to the funeral home," Ruggles said.
George Wright of Wright Funeral Home in Oxford declined to say whether Alston's eyes were intact, but they said they were cooperating with the police investigation.
Representatives with the North Carolina Eye Bank said they didn't harvest Alston's corneas.
McMichael has hired private investigator Sara Coffey to find out what happened to her husband’s eyes. Coffey, who is a Henderson City Council member, said she is seeking a court order to have Alston’s body exhumed for an autopsy.
"It's very hard. It's extremely hard," McMichael said. "I wake up at night, and I say, 'What have I done wrong to let you down, Bob?'"