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'Brain-Harvesting' Suit Ends in Mistrial

By Martin Laine     Jan 20, 2010 in Science
The first of more than a dozen lawsuits alleging a Maryland research lab improperly took the brains of deceased loved ones has ended in a mistrial.
Justice Paul A. Fritzsche, a superior court judge in York County, Maine, declared the mistrial last week after what he deemed were prejudicial statements by the plaintiff in the case, according to a story in the Portland Press-Herald.
In his suit, filed in 2006 against the Stanley Medical Research Institute (SMRI) of Bethesda, Maryland, Ray Martin of Old Orchard Beach, claims that he gave permission for the lab to take some brain tissue from his son, who drowned when his boat sank, but that they took the entire brain. Martin testified that he would rather go through a jury trial than accept a financial settlement, to spare others from going through what he did.
Judge Fritzsche ruled the testimony was prejudicial implying that a settlement had been offered.
“It made the testimony potentially too toxic to continue the trial,” said Tom LaPrade, lawyer for SMRI.
On its website, SMRI describes its work as specializing in research on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It has an extensive collection of brains, and makes tissue from them available to medical researchers. It defends its collection program, and says that all donors are fully informed of the process. The website goes on to explain that “reasonable compensation” is paid to agents who arrange for these donations.
Matthew St. Cyr, a former state funeral inspector, collected $1,000 each for nearly 100 brains sent to SMRI between 1999 and 2003, when the program was discontinued. Many of the families involved complained they had not been fully informed by St. Cyr. Some have already accepted out-of-court settlements.
A federal investigation found no criminal wrongdoing.
More about Brain harvesting, Stanley medican research insttitute, Maine
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