ROBERTSDALE, Ala. (WKRG) — Photographs and memories, when Donna Atkins looks at photos of her son Justin there’s a sense of peace now. “At least something good may come out of it. It may not be as good as I want it to be but it’s something,” she says.
17-year-old Justin Crooks died suddenly in the spring of 2007. An aneurism behind his heart ruptured. She found out the hard way during the autopsy, her son’s heart had been removed, kept in a specimen jar for years before being destroyed.
A conversation with a medical examiner was even more disturbing. “Oh, they take eyes and brains and hearts whatever they deem necessary. They don’t tell the loved ones because it would be upsetting,” she says.
That began her mission to pass a law to change that. Last week, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey made it official with her signature. “There is a law now that you have to ask permission before you remove someone’s heart, eyes, brains.”
Her journey, for now, is done. “It’s a shame that it had to be a law that I had to fight so for this law, to do the right thing.”
Now when she looks at those pictures or travels through those memories, she hears Justin’s voice, “You go Mom,” and feels he can rest a little easier too.
While the legislation requires medical examiners to ask permission to keep an organ, there is no punishment if they don’t. That’s where Donna Atkins says there is still work to be done.