Navy Doctor Takes Brain Home, Fined For Letting Kids Hold It

A Navy doctor was fined after he let kids hold a dead Marine’s brain at home before transporting the organ from Camp Lejeune, N.C., to a medical center in Portsmouth.

Dr. Mark E. Shelly took the organ to his residence in Virginia Beach and removed it from the specimen jar to allow his children to handle it while his wife took photographs, according to Virginia Board of Medicine records.

The next day, Shelly took the brain to the medical center for a neuropathological examination to complete an autopsy.

The Virginia Board of Medicine last month issued a reprimand and fined Shelly, an osteopathic doctor, $2,500. The board also cited Shelly, who has the rank of commander, for failing to inform the Navy that he held a part-time job with the Tidewater District of the state medical examiner’s office.

Deborah Kallgren, a spokeswoman for Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, said in an email that Shelly is on active duty at the hospital in an administrative capacity, awaiting final disposition of his case.

“We cannot comment on personnel actions, but appropriate disciplinary action is being taken,” Kallgren wrote.

Navy records show that Shelly is 41 and was commissioned into the Navy in 1994.

According to Board of Medicine records, Shelly was terminated from the state medical examiner’s employment in January because of the incident. Dr. Leah Bush, chief medical examiner of Virginia, said in an email that she learned of the incident from Portsmouth police.

Detective Jan Westerbeck, a Portsmouth police spokeswoman, said the department received a vague, anonymous tip about the matter in January and immediately referred it to the state medical examiner’s office. She said Portsmouth police were not involved in an investigation.

In a letter to the Board of Medicine dated April 3, Shelly acknowledged that he used “extremely poor judgment” and now realizes the impact his actions had on the family of the deceased. He wrote that it was not his intention to be disrespectful to the service member or his family.

Board of Medicine records indicate that Shelly’s actions did not have an impact on the neuropathologist’s ability to make a diagnosis.

Shelly, reached by phone, declined comment.

Board of Medicine records said he agreed not to contest the findings or the sanction.

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