Organ harvesting in America? Inmate’s death in Alabama shrouded in mystery

by WorldTribune Staff, December 10, 2023

The family of an inmate who died in prison is suing the Alabama prison system after an autopsy revealed that the body was sent to a funeral home and the heart had been removed.

Brandon Clay Dotson

Brandon Clay Dotson, 43, was found dead at Ventress Correctional Facility on Nov. 16. He was serving a 99-year sentence for burglary, according to Law & Crime.

The lawsuit said Dotson’s body was discovered on the same day he was scheduled to be considered for a parole release.

Dotson’s family said he died after seeking help from prison officials, claiming other inmates were harming him as he failed to pay drug debts. Dotson was found dead in his bed, and the lawsuit said “his body had already begun to stiffen.”

The family “suspected foul play, in part because of the Alabama Department of Corrections’ extensive and ongoing violations of basic human and constitutional rights,” said the lawsuit. The family hired pathologist Dr. Boris Datnow to conduct a second autopsy on Dotson’s body and Datnow discovered during his exam that Dotson’s heart had been removed.

“The Alabama Department of Corrections – or an agent responsible for conducting the (initial) autopsy or transporting the body to his family – had, inexplicably and without the required permission from Mr. Dotson’s next of kin, removed and retained Mr. Dotson’s heart,” the lawsuit claimed.

According to the lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court by Birmingham attorney Lauren Faraino, Dotson’s body was released to his family on Nov. 21.

“At this point the body had not been properly stored and was severely decomposed. Despite the family’s initial wishes, they had no choice but to hold a closed casket funeral service,” said the lawsuit.

A spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Corrections said the department does not conduct autopsies, and that the department wouldn’t comment on pending litigation.

In addition to prison officials, the lawsuit names the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) Health System as defendants. The suit claims UAB’s School of Medicine obtained Dotson’s heart, and details a 2018 incident where medical students “noticed that a disproportionate number of the specimens they encountered during their medical training originated from individuals who had died in prison custody within the Alabama Department of Corrections.”

The lawsuit states, “Upon information and belief, (UAB medical school) is a possible intended recipient of Mr. Dotson’s heart.”

A UAB spokesperson said Friday afternoon: “We have reviewed our records, which show UAB did not perform this autopsy and has not been involved with this matter. We are making the plaintiff’s attorney aware.”

The family wants the “immediate return” of Dotson’s heart, according to the suit. The family claims no one has informed them where the heart is, or why it was removed.

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