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Tissue bank facing new suit

Children of deceased Hilton woman say her body parts were removed without consent

May 20, 2006 | Saying their mother's body parts were harvested without consent, the children of a deceased Hilton woman filed suit Friday against an embattled New Jersey tissue bank and a Hilton funeral home.

The family of Georgia A. Beaton, who died in a Rochester hospital in April 2005 at the age of 59, alleges in legal papers that Biomedical Tissue Services extracted tissue from her body.

They say they never gave consent for the procedure, and that a tissue-donation form authorizing the extraction bears a fraudulent signature.

Their lawsuit, filed Friday afternoon in state Supreme Court, accuses the Burger Funeral Home, owner Thomas E. Burger and funeral director Jason L. Gano of allowing Biomedical personnel to conduct the illegal tissue recovery.

Lawyers for Biomedical and Burger could not be reached for comment Friday. Neither could Beaton's lawyers. One family member, James Beaton, declined to comment on Friday.

Georgia Beaton's four adult children three daughters who live in the Rochester area and son James, who lives in Georgia constitute the seventh local family to make similar accusations against Biomedical and local funeral homes.

The operator of the New Jersey firm, Dr. Michael Mastromarino, and three associates were indicted in Brooklyn in February on charges they recovered tissue from bodies without obtaining consent and sold it for use in medical procedures without ensuring it was free of infectious disease.

The allegations in that 122-count indictment arose from the firm's activity in New York City, where Biomedical operated when it first opened for business in 2002.

Biomedical opened a branch office in suburban Rochester in November 2004 and recovered tissue from as many as 65 cadavers in local funeral homes.

The firm, which did all its tissue recovery work in funeral homes, had business relationships with up to eight local funeral homes, officials have said. Funeral directors were offered fees of $1,000 per body, according to several local directors.

Biomedical ceased operations here and elsewhere in October 2005 when accusations against it became public and questions arose about the accuracy of its records.

A criminal investigation of Biomedical's activities in Rochester, involving law enforcement agencies from Brooklyn and Monroe County, is continuing.

No criminal charges have been filed against any local funeral homes.

The Beaton family says in their legal papers they learned of the improper harvesting from an investigator in the Kings County District Attorney's office in Brooklyn.

Six other families had previously joined a proposed class-action lawsuit in federal court here that claims Biomedical recovered tissue without consent.

Four of those families say the unauthorized tissue recovery was done at the Burger home. The other families allege the misconduct occurred at Profetta Funeral Chapel in Irondequoit and Webster and at Serenity Hills Funeral Home in Rochester.

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