Lawsuit: Ex-Travis Co. ME harvested organs in Lubbock without permission

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A former Travis County medical examiner who a local judge once said showed “disgusting” behavior is now facing a lawsuit in Lubbock. 

Dr. Sam Andrews 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.

As a result of the autopsy changes, the jury convicted Bryan Canchola of a Class A misdemeanor assault charge — rather than murder. Due to Andrews’ actions, Perkins says her nephew never received justice. 

“I feel like the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office failed Stephen,” said Shanae Perkins, Sylvester’s aunt. “We didn’t get to choose who did his autopsy. You know, when your loved one dies, that’s not a choice you get to make.”

After leaving Austin in the fall of 2018, Andrews became the chief medical examiner in Lubbock. But, Andrews continues to be plagued with legal troubles. 

A lawsuit was filed Monday that alleges that he and a colleague harvested organs from the body of a little girl during an autopsy without her parents’ permission. Andrews is also accused of allowing a doctor who was not licensed in Texas to perform autopsies. 

The lawsuit was filed by a former employee of the Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s Office who was fired on Jan. 17. In the lawsuit, the former employee claims she was fired after she reported the unethical practices being carried out by Andrews and his colleague. 

Andrews and the other defendant, Dr. Evan Matsches, deny all wrongdoing. 

The Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed to KXAN that Andrews resigned in October to take the job in Lubbock. But the lawsuit alleges that he began working in Lubbock on an interim contractual basis in August. 

Criminal Defense Attorney Amber Vazquez, who represents Clifton Wade — charged with capital murder in the 2016 death of Lee King in Del Valle. Andrews had a hand in King’s autopsy and she says they’ll move to suppress it.

Despite the allegations, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office remains confident his work is credible. Mindy Montford, First Assistant in the Travis County District Attorney’s Office said: We have not come into contact with any so far where the findings are in dispute. We plan on having every one of these autopsies reviewed by another examiner to determine whether or not they can agree or concur with the work that was done.”

Alternatively, Vazquez argues that perhaps measures should even go so far as using old records and exuming bodies. 

Read the full lawsuit here.

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