Family of Brayden Turnbill blocked from donating organs
Rock Co. coroner says blocking organ donation is rare
WISC-TV has learned the family of a 5-year-old alleged child abuse victim was blocked from donating his organs.
The Dane County District Attorney's Office confirms they filed a restraining order in the matter.
Dane County Medical Examiner's Director of Operations Barry Irmen said this is the first time in the state that this has happened, and that his office and the DA's office got a judge to block the organ donation to preserve evidence.
Five-year-old Brayden Turnbill died on Oct. 24 at UW Hospital after being taken from his home with head and chest injuries that investigators say were from child abuse.
Turnbill's family members said they consented to donating his organs, but Assistant District Attorney Tom Fallon confirms that the DA's office stepped in, arguing to Judge Peter Anderson in a morning hearing on Oct. 24 that the body needed to remain completely intact to determine the cause and manner of death. Those court proceedings are sealed, but Anderson granted the restraining order and Turnbill had life support removed and died that evening.
Acting coroner in Rock County Lou Smit was not involved in this case, but said blocking organ donation is rare and the issue is "a balancing act."
"We speak for the dead and the people who can't speak for themselves," Smit said. "Sometimes the value is better spent in the courtroom, and sometimes it's better spent on that needed tissue to help some other person."
Smit said typically a deal is struck to donate some organs, but not all.
"That would be bone, tendon, skin or things of that nature," Smit said. "Things that would not have any evidentiary value that would prohibit or inhibit a criminal prosecution."
In Turnbill's case, nothing was allowed. An autopsy done the next day found he died of homicide by blunt force trauma to the head. His mother's boyfriend, Dakota Black, has since been charged with reckless homicide.
Family members of Turnbill told WISC-TV they were hurt, upset and even devastated that the organ donation was not allowed to go forward, and said that UW doctors did everything they could to try to make it happen.
UW Hospital declined to comment on the story, citing health privacy laws.
Irmen said his office typically works very hard to provide for organ donation opportunities in nearly every case, but this case was unusual and donation was blocked for evidentiary reasons.
Black will be in court this Thursday for a preliminary hearing.
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