Family: We Want Our Daughter’s Organs Back

By Andrea Lucia, CBS 11 News

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.

  • Shoveheadrider

    I have no sympathy for this family. If you move to America, learn to speak english. Perhaps if they spoke english there would be no problem. No body took advantage of this family, they just did not understand.

    • Just me

      I agree – if you move to our country leave our language. I am tired of side stepping people. This is OUR COUNTRY – if you do not like our rules or our language – GO HOME

    • kellie

      I don’t understand why they think its because of the fact they don’t know english. They are not suppose to keep whole organs, just biopsies of each organ to determine disease or foul play. Something is wrong there!!!! As for all the comments on how many people donate organs at Parkland, are you kidding me- That place is packed with people and traumas everyday, Im surprised the numbers arent higher. I’m sorry that those people we wronged but I don’t believe its the norm. My whole family are organ donors and it will stay that way.

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  • fatima

    Why do they need the organs, its not like she is coming back to life. And how do they know she is not resting in peace.

    The family just wants to get money out this sad story.

  • Mike

    What’s the issue? Learn English and understand what happens. Plus Domingo Garcia heard there would be a TV camera so he jumps on board.

  • mjbr

    Domingo Garcia’s involved–enough said.

  • mrsbigtank

    Wow, have a heart people. This family deserves the right for the hospital to provide a well trained translator to help explain the procedure and paperwork to the family. The family has the right to bury their daughter complete. Some religions state that the soul is not at peace until it is reunited with the entire body. Respect others, so that when it is your time they too respect you.

  • Carolyn

    That is so messed up. You people have no compassion. You shouldn’t have even stopped to make a comment. Some religions believe that if your organs are not buried with your body that part of you remains here and you don’t fully move on to the afterlife. Who cares what language is spoken. An English speaking family could have been so grief stricken that they could have not understood the paperwork. Someone died here have a little respect.

  • Jennifer

    I agree! I feel no sympathy for them! They need to speak English in order to live here. If they signed something and didn’t know it it’s their fault not the hospitals. Who really cares about the organs at a funeral though, seriously? That’s ridiculous. How man times did the family see her organs before death? Exactly. It has nothing to do with her burial in my opinion. They were selfish not to donate them to someone who could have used them and saved several more lives! Ignorance is not an excuse! Sorry! The only reason that this has made such a big deal is because they are Hispanic and do not speak English… Throw the race card any chance you get eh?

  • Have some humanity people!

    Wow! I presume these hateful comments are from people at Parkland. They’re pretty brutal, and does not reflect very well on Parkland’s humanity. Let’s not forget this is a little girl that died. The very least that Parkland could have done was honor the girl’s family’s wishes and treated her body with the respect and dignity she deserved in death. This really changes my view of the people at Parkland. They are pretty hateful and loathsome people.

    • Esther Jackson

      So your post is based on a presumption? You are basically saying you have no idea what you are talking about and are making things up as you feel fit. I have been a patient at Parkland for years and am offended by your stupidity, ignorance, and arrogance. You shouldn’t make uneducated and uninformed statements.

  • Creeped out

    Very creepy. I’m glad I’m not a patient at Parkland. I just read in the DMN that Parkland is being commended for having a high organ donation rate. I think we know why that they have such a high organ rate now.

  • common sense

    The story doesn’t detail how the patients actual death occurred but in order to obtain viable organs the donor must be (obviously) kept on life support until the surgery. Also the odds of obtaining viable donations decrease the longer the patient is on life support. We stopped life support for my mother and my family was gathered at her bedside for her passing. I would guess the same was true in this case. PLEASE do not scare potential donors and their families with crazy suggestions that organs are procured improperly.

  • Requiem aeternam

    A hospital has to be consistent in how it applies informed consent, even for the deceased. This is of the utmost ethical concern for me as a patient.

    For the Soto family to bear witness of their deceased and beloved daughter at her funeral without any of her organs is just unthinkable. For Christ’s sake, Sonia Soto is a human being and deserves the respect and dignity that any of us expect in life. She shouldn’t have been treated like a Thanksgiving turkey with all its giblets removed. This whole affair is just horrifying, and makes me sick to my stomach.

    There’s no doubt that the issue of organ donation is an important one; however, Parkland’s actions certainly put doubts in my mind whether they are honest enough, ethical, and transparent in their health care practices for me to trust that they would treat me with the dignity I expect as human being.

    I certainly wouldn’t want my family to fight tooth and nail with them for 7 months after I died to find out what they did with my body parts with no answers. It’s just shameful.

  • Patti C.

    This is revolting and the vitriol against this family is horrid. When before in history have families been badgered to cut up their loved one’s bodies and get them to other people? It has happened. It is called human sacrifice and often includes cannibalism.

    The language or nationality is irrelevant. These are grieving parents.

    What is shocking is that federal law mandates badgering people for organs in cases considered eligible. The problem with this approach, other than being intrusive and assumptive, is that it places the needs of the organ recipient above other sick people. The deceased may have died from medical neglect.

    Lots of illnesses don’t get the attention that those caused by ailing organs do. The organ transplantation issue offers the doctors the unique opportunity to transfer the responsibility for an early death to some “selfish” family who won’t donate.

    Most of do not and will never need an organ transplant. If Jennifer found herself with a serious illness in which the medical profession has no interest, perhaps she would feel differently.

    I do not oppose voluntary donation, but I would want to ensure that the decedent had consented before death. I had a friend from high school who lived for many years with an organ transplant.

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