Hutzel Hospital, Cantrell Funeral Home sued over hidden fetus remains

Cantrell Funeral Home in Detroit. (WDIV)

DETROIT – Earlier this month, the remains of 11 babies were found hidden in the ceiling of a former Detroit funeral home.

Baby Boy Morris is one of the infants whose remains were improperly handled by the funeral home. His parents are suing the hospital where he was born and the Cantrell Funeral Home.

The plaintiffs are Whitney Morris and AJ Johnson, who both live in Wayne County.

The lawsuit was filed against Harper-Hutzel Hospital, also known as the Hutzel Women's Hospital, Cantrell Funeral Home, Raymond E. Cantrell II, and Annetta Cantrell.

The lawsuit is asking for an amount in excess of $10 million, "for the extreme and outrageous conduct as well as the lack of dignity to Plaintiff's beloved baby's sacred remains."

The following are allegations that appear in the lawsuit. A warning, some readers may find the content detailed below graphic.

On Sept. 13, 2011, Whitney Morris was five months pregnant and experiencing bleeding and abdominal pain. According to the lawsuit, Morris went to the emergency department at Hutzel Women's Hospital. She was admitted as a high-risk pregnancy.

A doctor with the hospital did an ultrasound and other tests. After reviewing the tests, the doctor informed Morris that the baby was alive, but the doctor said that the ultrasound looked cloudy. The doctor allegedly told Morris that a cloudy ultrasound was a sign of infection and encouraged her to induce labor.

According to the lawsuit, Morris told the doctor she didn't think it was in her or her unborn child's best interest to induce labor.

The lawsuit accuses the doctor of coercing Morris into allowing the hospital to induce labor.

The doctor "took it upon himself to tell the Plaintiff's family horror stories of other women dying painfully due to their refusing to have their labor induced as a scare tactic to force the Plaintiff to allow him to have his way and have her baby prematurely," according to the lawsuit.

When Morris said she began to feel labor pains, she notified a nurse. That nurse allegedly passed her off to someone else to be transported to labor and delivery. During the transportation process, the person transporting her received a personal call and left Morris alone in a "dimly lit" hospital room.

Morris' sister went looking for help. Before staff members could respond, Morris stood up and Baby Boy Morris was born with no help from hospital staff.

The lawsuit alleges a staff member "tossed" the newly born infant into a puke pan and "ran from the room."

"It will never be known if Baby Boy Morris would have survived and had a chance at life because of the lack of medical and personal care Plaintiff received and the incompetent/untrained staff at a 'women's hospital' that claims to be an advance (sic) birthing center," according to the lawsuit.

Morris went unconscious. Baby Boy Morris was deemed a stillborn on Sept. 14, 2011. While Morris was unconscious she was moved into a patient room.

Following those events, Morris contacted Cantrell Funeral Home to perform burial services. When she contacted the hospital, they said her baby was not there and she should contact the funeral home. The funeral home said they had not retrieved the remains.

After some back-and-forth with the hospital and funeral home, she only received excuses from both, according to the lawsuit. Nobody was able to tell her where her infant was.

Three years after those events, a staff member at the newly reformed Hutzel Hospital contacted her informing her, that they were under new management and her son had been located and cremated along with other babies that were left at the hospital.

On Oct. 24, 2018, she was visited by Detroit police, who told her that her baby's remains were among the remains found hidden in the Cantrell Funeral Home.

"While under the custody of Defendants, Baby Boy Morris' remains were left hidden away to collect dust in the Cantrell Funeral Home," according to the lawsuit.

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