LUBBOCK, Texas (Nexstar) — A family from Odessa say they believe their toddler son’s organs were harvested without permission by a former Travis County Medical Examiner being sued, they told a KXAN sister station in Lubbock. Their claim is among a growing list of allegations against the Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s Office where he works now.
Dr. Sam Andrews was hired by the Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s Office, through a company called NAAG, as Chief Medical Examiner in October 2018. In Travis County, he gained attention after he testified to changing his findings in an autopsy in the 2017 murder trial of Stephen Sylvester. The judge in the case added this caused a “reliability issue” with the findings and said Andrews did not use “best practices when performing the autopsy.
NAAG provided written instructions to its employees, contractors, and/or agents regarding procedures for “removing” and “preserving” tissue from children. The KXAN sister station acquired a copy of those instructions earlier this month. Additionally, a fired employee sued NAAG, Andrews and Dr. Evan Matshes with allegations that body parts were taken for research without permission.
County Commissioner Jason Corley issued a memo in February saying that Dr. Matshes harvested and retained tissue of a child referred to Z.G. while unlicensed to practice medicine.
Corley claimed that on August 14, 2018, Matshes harvested the organs, cervical spinal column, and eyes of the deceased child.
The family of the deceased child identified him as 2-year-old Zaydrian Guerra. They gave written permission for Guerra’s heart and certain other organs to be donated for organ transplant to save others lives. But permission was denied for medical research.
At the time of Zaydrian’s death, a news release from the Odessa Police Department said Marqalo Flores was charged with Capital Murder for the boy’s death.
Alyssa Hammontree, Zaydrian’s mother, says there needed to be an autopsy because of the criminal charges. But the autopsy should have been respectful to her wishes.
“I have nightmares of just what they could’ve taken from him,” Hammontree said. “How could you do that to a baby?”
Hammontree asked, “How do you sit there and take something from him that shouldn’t have been taken?”
Hammontree gave KXAN sister station EverythingLubbock.com Donor ID documents which specifically state, “no” to research and “no” to teaching and education purposes.
Hammontree says she wanted his organs to go to children who needed a donation.
“I allowed the heart and the heart vessels, the lungs, the pancreas, the liver and the kidney,” Hammontree said. “I wanted my son to still be intact, just what they absolutely needed for the other children.”
EverythingLubbock.com reached out to LifeGift, the not-for-profit organ procurement organization that recovers organs and tissue for individuals needing a donation. Refer back to this article for updated information.
Hammontree says she has not received an autopsy report from the Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s office. EverythingLubbock.com called the medical examiner’s office for copies of autopsy reports, but did not receive a call back.
KXAN’s Tulsi Kamath contributed to this report.