Officials weigh relaxing terms for body's release

April 12, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Riverside County health officials hope to decide this week whether to loosen restrictions on the release of the body of Gloria Ramirez, whose death in February is central to the investigation of the still unexplained fumes that felled attendants of a hospital emergency room.

The county has said it would release the body for burial if the woman's family agreed not to open the sealed casket. Officials said there still are unanswered questions about whether her body was the source of the fumes that sickened a half-dozen people at Riverside General Hospital's emergency room.

But Riverside County spokesman Tom DeSantis said yesterday that medical and scientific experts this week "will analyze what we've learned so far in the investigation. We're hopeful the analysis will shed enough light on this case where our public health officer can make a final review on the conditions" for the body's release.

Attorneys for the Ramirez family asked for the release of her body last month but refused to accept the county's condition that the casket remain unopened -- prohibiting the family even from confirming that the woman's body was inside the casket.

Because of the family's protest, the county last week sought a court order to back its position, and a hearing was set for tomorrow.

But yesterday the county dropped the lawsuit.

"We absolutely think the county is trying to protect itself, hide something, or is manipulating data," said Ron Schwartz, attorney for the Ramirez family.

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