Parents Sue Boston Hospital for Losing Their Baby's Remains: 'It's Like She Died All Over Again,' Says Mom

·4-min read
Everleigh Victoria McCarthy; Alana Ross and Daniel McCarthy
Everleigh Victoria McCarthy; Alana Ross and Daniel McCarthy

Courtesy of Alana Ross and Daniel McCarthy Alana Ross, Daniel McCarthy and Everleigh

A couple whose newborn died days after her birth have filed a lawsuit against Brigham and Women's Hospital for failing to safeguard their daughter's remains, which remain lost.

It was just after midnight on July 23, 2020, and Alana Ross was at her Sharon, Massachusetts home when her water broke, according to a complaint obtained by PEOPLE. She was 26 weeks pregnant. Ross and her fiancé, Daniel McCarthy, hurried to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Two days later, Everleigh McCarthy was born via an emergency cesarean-section. She arrived three months early, weighing just a little over 2 lbs. Everleigh soon developed a brain bleed, and as doctors treated her in the NICU, the couple held her, and Alana read her Little Red Riding Hood.

Twelve days after Everleigh's birth, on August 6, doctors said she would not survive, according to the complaint. They gave her morphine, took her off a ventilator, and as Alana held her in her arms, Everleigh's heart flatlined.

Dan and Alana said tearful goodbyes, and handed her to nurses, who cleaned her tiny body and dressed Everleigh in a white satin gown. The family would then have to work on the heartbreaking task of funeral arrangements.

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The couple decided she'd be buried in the cemetery where Dan's grandmother was laid to rest, and a funeral home went to pick Everleigh up from the hospital morgue on Monday, August 10, the complaint stated.

However, just hours after Everleigh was supposed to be picked up, Dan took a shocking call from a funeral home worker.

The hospital could not find her body, according to a police report obtained by PEOPLE.

"It's like she died all over again," Ross told The New York Times.

Alana Ross and Daniel McCarthy
Alana Ross and Daniel McCarthy

Courtesy of Greg Henning Alana Ross and Daniel McCarthy

In the report, police wrote that detectives determined that Everleigh "was not placed in the proper area" of the morgue and "was probably mistaken as soiled linens" by a pathologist.

Based on interviews and surveillance footage, police said that the pathologist, having probably mistaken Everleigh for soiled linen, placed the bundle "in the blue soiled linen bag inside the morgue examination room," which was then disposed of with other soiled linen, according to a police report.

On Thursday, Ross and McCarthy sued Brigham and Women's Hospital in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston, as well as 14 hospital employees.

In a statement shared with PEOPLE, Dr. Sunil Eappen, Brigham and Women's Hospital's chief medical officer, expressed "our deepest sympathies and most sincere apologies to the Ross and McCarthy family for their loss and the heartbreaking circumstances surrounding it."

"As with any instance in which there is a concern raised related to our standard of care or practice, we readily and transparently shared the details with the patient's family. We always evaluate both system and human factors that contribute to errors or potential issues raised by patients, family members or staff and take action," Eappen wrote. "Due to pending litigation, we are unable to comment specifically on this case."

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"They've been dealing with the trauma and grief of losing Everleigh twice," their attorney Greg Henning tells PEOPLE. "They feel the only way that people are held accountable is to file a lawsuit."

And as Ross, 37, told The New York Times: "We don't want anybody else to go through this. We want them to fix this."

Soon after Everleigh's body was discovered missing, detectives and waste company staffers spent hours searching through blood-soaked clothing and rags, and soiled linens at a trash disposal site, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit alleges that a series of missteps by nurses and other hospital staffers led to Everleigh being mistaken for dirty linen.

When the pathologist was first questioned, he told detectives that no soiled linens were removed from the morgue the day after Everleigh was brought there by two nurses, the police report claims. But police said the pathologist later admitted to seeing linen on one of the stainless-steel trays in the morgue cooler, then disposing of the linen, likely thinking it was a "left-over blanket," per the report.

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Ross, a non-clinical medical writer, and McCarthy, 38, a general manager at a pie company, met in fifth grade growing up in Milton, Massachusetts, their attorney tells PEOPLE. They remained friends through the years and began dating in their 20s. Then, in 2019 they became engaged.

Ross learned she was pregnant on Valentine's Day in 2019, but suffered a miscarriage several months later, and then another by the end of that year. The following February, they learned they were pregnant with Everleigh.

Their attorney says that the couple have plans to try again for children.

"They've been looking to have a family and become parents," says Henning. "They're still looking forward to having a family in the future."

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