DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Every night before bed, Ruben Soto says a prayer for his daughter, Sonia.
She died more than 7 months ago, but he says she has yet to rest in peace. “I would never wish this on anyone,” said Soto.
27-year-old Sonia Soto died at Parkland Hospital from a brain hemorrhage back in March. Her parents say they reluctantly signed off on a hospital autopsy, but adamantly refused to donate her organs. “It’s very difficult,” said her mother, Maguadalupe Soto.
So, when they leaned in to hug their daughter one last time at her funeral, they say they were surprised to find she was as light as a pillow. An embalmer’s report shows her body weighed just 100 pounds – and that her internal organs had been “retained” by the hospital.
A funeral director at the Gonzalez Funeral Home confirmed to us Soto’s body had arrived there “empty.”
So, where did those organs go?
After nearly 7 months of trying to find answers, the Soto family turned to CBS 11 News and hired an attorney, as well. A few days later, Parkland Hospital finally agreed to meet with the family.
The hospital will not confirm what was said in that meeting, but according to the family attorney, administrators admitted the organs had been cremated. In a statement to CBS 11 News, the hospital explained:
Autopsies are useful to determine the cause of death, document existing conditions, and to provide information to physicians that may contribute to the care of living patients. Before an autopsy is performed, the procedure is explained to the patient’s next of kin by their physician. If they choose to proceed, an autopsy consent form is signed. At autopsy, the body is examined, the organs are removed, and samples of the organs are taken for microscopic examination. The organs are saved for approximately 1 month after completion of the autopsy procedure in case further examination is necessary.
It’s a policy, the hospital claims, applies to every patient – and one that would have made it impossible to bury Sonia with her organs five days after her death.
“There’s no reason for us to keep the organs,” said Dr. Roger Metcalf with the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office. While it’s not involved in this case, we asked about its policy and found a very different approach to autopsies because the office investigates crime.
“The staff insists that every deceased person be treated with the utmost dignity and respect, and we think that does include returning the organs to the person.
The Sotos’ attorney, Domingo Garcia, says the hospital overstepped its rights. “They never got the consent of the family to remove the organs and to keep those organs. And never got the consent of the family to cremate those organs. I think it’s just kind of a heartless thing to do.”
The family is still skeptical of the hospital’s explanation. They’re asking for documented proof of the cremation – and Sonia’s ashes, if possible.
They believe they were taken advantage of.
“They did it because we don’t know English,” said Mrs. Soto.
And, they keep praying every night, hoping their daughter will one day find peace and so will they.