Family outraged after Ont. girl buried without brain
The family of a young girl who died suddenly last month wants to know why coroners at a London, Ont., hospital removed her brain during the autopsy but didn't tell them until after the girl was buried.
Sanja Pandzic, 7, was killed by an unexpected heart problem, doctors told her family. The young girl died in hospital after losing consciousness at her family home in Woodstock, Ont., on Oct. 23.
"[They] said that it was a heart problem, so they're going to need to look into it more and see what's going on," Sanja's brother, Jasmin, told CBC's As It Happens Thursday.
"They wanted to check more deeper into it. They didn't say anything about the brain" following her death, he said.
Jasmin's mother, Dragica, said she gave the Woodstock hospital where Sanja died permission to send the body to University Hospital in London for an autopsy.
The girl's body was returned and buried less than a week later in a traditional Islamic ceremony, under the assumption that she was being interred with all of her organs.
Two days after the funeral, Dragica received the news that Sanja's brain had been kept at the London hospital for further testing.
The Woodstock doctor called the family at home and told them "the papers said about the autopsy that they still had the brain of my sister…at the University Hospital in the autopsy department," Jasmin said, speaking for his mother throughout the interview as she cried quietly.
"They didn't tell us anything before that."
When he spoke to the regional supervising coroner for West London, Dr. Rick Mann, Jasmin said the doctor told him "that to do more tests on the brain will save other kids lives."
Dragica, whose religious beliefs dictate that the bodies of the dead must be buried whole, said the news was shocking.
"I asked 'Who give you permission to touch her brain?'…and [Mann] told me, 'We need brain for find something,'" she said.
She said the doctor said "that he must keep that brain for more time. It's hard for me — I get one shock when my girl passed away, and other shock was when he told me a part of her body is still in hospital."
Mann told the CBC on Thursday that the coroner's office is entitled to keep organs without family permission, and that the investigation into Sanja's death is ongoing.
He is scheduled to appear on As It Happens Friday evening to discuss the issue.
No papers were ever signed that would give doctors permission to keep Sanja's organs, Jasmin said. His family now wonders if there are other parts the girl might be missing.
"If they took the brain, how do we now not know they didn't keep the heart or a kidney or something?"
Lawyers have told the family they must gather paperwork to prove that the London hospital still has Sanja's brain in order to get it back.
Meanwhile, the funeral home that buried the little girl has offered to pick up her brain from the hospital and bury it a few feet above the casket so as not to disturb the grave.
"They [doctors] I think suggested to cremate it and my mom said no, because she didn't let her daughter's body, whole body, get cremated, so why should she let them cremate the brain," Jasmin said.