Lawsuit: Hospital authorized organs harvested from unidentified, missing woman
A Long Island man is suing New York City Health and Hospitals for authorizing his deceased mother’s organs to be donated to LiveOnNY without her or his consent.
When Myriam Hoyos de Baldrich, 69, arrived at Bellevue Hospital on May 7, 2022, she was an unidentified patient. She had been hit by an L Train around 14th Street in Flatiron and was declared brain dead.
“She didn’t have an ID on her, she didn’t have any belongings, she was a Jane Doe,” Stephanie Echeverria, Hoyos de Baldrich’s niece, said in an interview.
Hoyos de Baldrich, who had dementia, disappeared from her son’s home in Seaford the day prior.
The family filed a missing persons report with the Nassau County Police Department on May 8 – not knowing that Hoyos de Baldrich had already been hit by the subway train and was at Bellevue Hospital.
“We were all out looking for her,” Martha Echeverria, Hoyos de Baldrich’s sister, said.
On May 18, the family said a detective from the Nassau Police Department called the family saying that Hoyos de Baldrich had been found, but she was dead at Bellevue Hospital and all her organs had been harvested.
“For somebody to make that decision for our family and on her – it blows my mind,” Stephanie Echeverria said.
The family provided reporters with the authorization form they say was used to harvest Hoyos de Baldrich’s organs. It shows by checkmark the organs that were authorized for harvesting, including Hoyos de Baldrich’s heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, stomach, eye, bone, skin, veins, and tissue from her arms and legs. Her organs were authorized to be donated for research and education purposes.
The family said the day after Hoyos de Baldrich’s organs were harvested, her body was brought to the New York City Medical Examiner’s office. A worker there identified Hoyos de Baldrich by running her fingerprints in a database, according to the family.
Hoyos de Baldrich’s son and husband contend in the lawsuit against New York City Health and Hospitals (NYCHHC) that the hospital system was “negligent, reckless and careless” for not identifying Hoyos de Baldrich, not contacting her family and for authorizing the harvesting of her organs without her or her family’s consent.
“The defendant, NYCHHC failed to account for and inquire as to the decedent’s personal and cultural beliefs when it authorized the dissection of decedent’s body for the purpose of harvesting and donating the decedent’s organs and tissues,” the lawsuit reads.
“The family deserves justice,” their attorney Avi Laby told reporters. “They deserve to know what happened, why did it happen.”
Reporters reached out to New York City Health and Hospitals (HHC) about the lawsuit and they said they do not comment on litigation.
However, in the hospital’s system motion to dismiss the lawsuit, the hospital argues it was the “exclusive” responsibility of LiveOnNY to identify Hoyos de Baldrich and that the hospital system is permitted to authorize the harvesting of organs from unidentified patients under the New York Gift Act.
“As a matter of law, HHC did not breach a duty it owed to plaintiffs and pursuant to the terms of the Gift Act, is immune from civil liability for participation in the process by which decedent’s organs were harvested,” the motion reads.
LiveOnNY told reporters it is the hospital’s responsibility to identify unidentified patients and that LiveOnNY is an organ procurement organization and does not practice medicine or treat patients.
LiveOnNY said out of the 272 people who had their organs donated to LiveOnNY in 2022, six of the donors were unidentified people.
About a month after Hoyos de Baldrich’s organs were harvested, the family had a meeting with management at Bellevue Hospital.
“They were just apologizing, saying that if they had the chance to do it over they would,” Stephanie Echeverria.
Stephanie Echeverria said prior to the meeting a hospital worker told the family that hospital workers found a piece of paper with Hoyos de Baldrich’s name written on it in her pocket.
Stephanie Echeverria said the worker showed her the piece of paper and the handwriting was not her aunt’s.
New York City Health and Hospitals said in its response to the lawsuit that Hoyos de Baldrich did not have a recognized form of legal identification when she arrived at Bellevue Hospital. The hospital system does not acknowledge in its response whether the piece of paper with Hoyos de Baldrich’s name existed only saying it is “irrelevant as applied to HHC.”
Hoyos de Baldrich’s wallet, phone, and jewelry have never been found.