Hospital rejects donated body as too fat for science
George Cardel’s final wish died with him — doomed by his hefty 300-pound frame.
The Queens mechanical engineer had hoped to donate his body to science, but that dream was dashed when a medical school rejected his corpse because of its girth, a $2 million lawsuit claims.
Even worse, the 59-year-old man’s body wasn’t returned for 13 days — so badly decomposed it required cremation.
“We thought everything was taken care of until 13 days later,” Cardel's sister, Maryann O’Donnell told The Daily News.
Maryann’s husband, Joseph, said it left the family reeling.
“Everybody was trying to get through closure and suddenly George was back,” he said.
Cardel suffered a heart attack Dec. 29, 2011 at the Queens Village home he shared with his now 93-year-old dad. He was pronounced dead at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, where officials insist they tried to place his corpse with the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine at Hofstra University.
But there were no takers, according to a complaint filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.
“The deceased weighed too much,” said lawyer Eric Rothstein, who is representing Cardel’s sister in a suit that claims the hospital caused “grave humiliation.”
LIJ spokesman Terry Lynam confirmed the family’s story, but said officials also contacted other medical schools and labs in an effort to satisfy Cardel's wishes.
The O'Donnells maintain the hospital was immediately notified of Cardel's full-body donation by the dead man's elderly father.
As an engineer, Cardel had worked for aerospace contractors on monumental projects like the Hubble Space Telescope and an exterior arm of a space shuttle.
“He was a big science buff and thought (donating his body) would be the right thing to do,” Joseph O'Donnell said.
There was never any thought that he wouldn’t qualify for the humanitarian act. Cardel stood 5 feet 11 inches tall, and weighed in at about 300 pounds at the time of his death, relatives said.
“He was stocky, heavy-set,” Joseph O'Donnell said. “I can't say he was pleasantly plump.”
Former New York City chief medical examiner Michael Baden said it’s not surprising that a medical school would turn down an obese corpse — even though there's a shortage of cadavers for medical students' anatomy classes.
“An obese person would be harder to dissect because of the amount of fat tissue under the skin,” Baden said. “The brain is not obese and the muscle and ligaments are not obese. But it's really up to the medical school to make that decision.”
To Maryann O'Donnell, that kind of discrimination makes no sense.
“What happens when an overweight person is brought into an emergency room?” she said.