Maryland Widow Suing State for Mix-Up Over Husband's Remains

A widow is suing Maryland state officials after receiving the wrong remains for her husband who had donated his body to science.

In the lawsuit filed Monday in Baltimore, Carmen Keggins alleges the Maryland Department of Health and the Maryland Anatomy Board were negligent in their handling of Brian Keggins’ remains. Brian Keggins died of complications from ALS in 2015.

Keggins, who is seeking $75,000 in damages, said the anatomy board initially provided ashes in 2017 it said belonged to her husband. Roughly a year later -- after Keggins buried those ashes -- an anatomy board official informed her she had been given the wrong remains and provided a second set, she said. She said she still doesn’t know whose cremains she buried.

“It's been just hell for me emotionally and physically,” she told the I-Team.

A spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Health, which oversees the state anatomy board, said it does not comment on pending claims.

The lawsuit follows a 2018 News4 investigation that revealed a series of failures in the program, including poor tracking of bodies, erroneous recordkeeping, a donor’s cremains being mistakenly buried in a state cemetery and an allegation of an employee knowingly sending the wrong remains to a donor’s family.

The I-Team uncovered an internal agency memo which acknowledged “serious inventory control” problems in the program, which manages thousands of bodies donated for scientific and medical research at both in and out-of-state institutions.

In her suit, Keggins alleged the anatomy board provided her incorrect remains either “by mistake or alternatively with the intention to deceive (her).” Keggins said the incident caused her injuries, trauma and economic damages.

Following the I-Team report, state health officials launched an audit of the program and reviewed about 1,200 donations. Officials say they’ve found no other cases of mishandled donated remains. The Maryland Senate health committee also requested a review of prior cases.

State officials have also said they’re instituting tighter controls at the board, including the use of electronic tracking methods of remains, among other improvements. A spokeswoman for the health department previously told the I-Team the anatomy board is moving to an automated “material management” system that will impose tighter controls on cremation authorizations.

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