• Memphis hospital to exhume woman's body months after being disposed of like 'garbage,' family says

    By: Siobhan Riley

    Updated:

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A local family may get their wish after their loved one’s body was buried without the family’s permission.

    The family took Rowena Burton to have surgery at Methodist South before she died. Because FOX13 continued to press the hospital for answers, the family may get their wish a week before Christmas. 

    ORIGINAL STORY: Woman dies at Memphis hospital, family claims she was disposed of like ‘garbage’

    FOX13 spoke with Eartha Duncan in November after her sister died in August following surgery for poor circulation in her foot. 

    After months of anguish and frustration over the “improper burial” of Burton, Duncan told FOX13 the hospital reached out to them and will exhume Burton’s body. 

    “It means the world to us even though it’s devastating all over again. It means that we can have some form of closure,” Burton’s mother said. 

    They told FOX13 they hope something like this will never happen to another family again. 

    The hospital provided a statement earlier that said they are working directly with the family to address their questions and honor their concerns. 

    Now, the family said the hospital will exhume Burton’s body. Hospital officials spoke with the family Monday, and they said the hospital is working with the family to come up with a date to exhume the body. 


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    Background info:

    Duncan said the doctor hit an artery, and her sister bled out during surgery.

    Burton suffered a stroke after she was transferred to Methodist University Hospital, and she died on Aug. 29. 

    Duncan told FOX13 that is when her mother requested an autopsy. Family said they finally received a copy of the autopsy after weeks of requests, but they never got a copy of the death certificate.

    Methodist University and the Shelby County Health Department gave her family "the runaround" when asked about the remains, she said. 

    After several weeks, Duncan said the hospital finally told them that the woman's remains were taken to Shelby County Cemetery in Bartlett.

    FOX13 spoke with the owner of the cemetery, who said the hospital told him to pick up the remains. He buried Burton's remains on Oct. 31. 

    Duncan showed her phone records and paperwork to FOX13 that shows the family went through the “proper channels” when attempting to bury the woman. 

    “Now we can’t,” Duncan said. “I want them to exhume that body, so we can have a proper burial for my sister – that’s not what we wanted at all.”

    The health department told FOX13 that it does not have that woman’s name on record.

    FOX13 reached out to Methodist regarding the incident. Hospital officials released the following statement: 

    "We understand that it is extremely hard to lose a loved one, and that’s why we follow specific procedures to help us honor patients’ and their families’ wishes. This includes reaching out to the family contact listed on a patient’s medical chart to confirm their wishes. After multiple attempts to make contact, if we are unable to reach the designated family member, we notify Shelby County for burial."

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