LUBBOCK, Texas — On Thursday, a routine check of court records showed that NAAG filed its side of the story in two lawsuits. NAAG is the company hired to oversee the office of Lubbock County Medical Examiner.
On February 8, officials announced that the Texas Rangers were asked by the District Attorney to investigate “any and all potential allegations with the Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s Office.”
Since that time, two lawsuits were filed against NAAG and Chief Medical Examiner Sam Andrews.
Former employee, Tita “Senee” Graves, accused the office of medical examiner of unnecessarily taking body parts in the latter part of 2018 and shipping them “to NAAG’s lab in California for research purposes.”
The Graves lawsuit also made allegations against Dr. Evan Matshes who is the CEO of NAAG.
Rebecca Villarreal Ortiz sued Dr. Andrews, Dr. Matshes, and NAAG – claiming that body parts were taken from her 10-year-old granddaughter during an autopsy in September. The lawsuit said it was both unnecessary and unauthorized.
In the response to the Villarreal lawsuit, filed on March 29, NAAG admits written instructions or “suggestions” were given to take internal organs. NAAG said an independent contractor, Dr. Stephen Pustilnik, performed the autopsy, not Dr. Andrews.
“As a licensed medical doctor, Dr. Pustilnik was obligated to exercise his own independent professional judgment and to act ethically,” the NAAG response said.
Pustilnik is not named in the lawsuit, however, he has objected in a memo to the District Attorney in January to what he described as the “retention of organs for research purposes without family permission.”
Pustilnik raised other allegations against Dr. Andrews and Dr. Matshes in that same memo. EverythingLubbock.com reached out to Pustilnik for comment on Thursday.
“The requirements that NAAG placed on the autopsy were given in written instructions and any unethical practice clearly devolves to the signatory of those instructions,” Pustilnik said.
EverythingLubbock.com previously obtained a copy of those instructions, and they were signed by Dr. Andrews.
NAAG also said in its response to the Villarreal lawsuit that it was acting on behalf of Lubbock County and therefore has “sovereign immunity.” Sovereign immunity is the idea that no one can sue the government without the government’s permission.
March 29 was also the day when NAAG filed a response in the Graves lawsuit.
“Ms. Graves’ allegations that her employment was terminated because she reported her concerns about potential illegal activity within the Medical Examiner’s Office to the authorities are false,” the response said. “There was no illegal activity in the Medical Examiner’s Office by Defendants.”
“The allegation that Dr. Matshes was taking excessive tissue for research is likewise unsupported,” the response said. “Dr. Matshes has never removed organs or tissues from forensic autopsies for research purposes.”
Both lawsuits are still pending.