Philadelphia health commissioner resigns after cremating MOVE victims without identifying them or notifying family

Philadelphia health commissioner resigns after cremating MOVE victims without identifying them or notifying family
Governor Tom Wolf / Wikimedia Commons

Philadelphia Health Department director Dr. Farley speaking to the press. Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of the Department of Health Dr. Rachel Levine today launched the COVID-19 exposure notification mobile app, COVID Alert PA, to help fight the spread of the virus. Philadelphia, PA – September 22, 2020

In 1985, Philadelphia officials detonated a bomb that subsequently killed six adults and five children inside a West Philadelphia home. Decades after the deadly incident, local officials have confirmed that some of the MOVE bombing victims were retrieved and discarded without surviving family members being notified.

Now, the city's health commissioner has resigned.

According to the Inquirer, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley resigned after the revelation was made public. On Thursday, May 13, Farley admitted that he had previously arranged for the remains of the 1985 MOVE bombing victims to be cremated and discarded while they were stored in the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office.

City officials also revealed some of those victims' remains, described as only "bones and bone fragments," had been housed at the city medical examiner's office since the time of the bombing. However, Farley failed to identify the remains in order to notify their ' surviving family members prior to the cremation process.

Upon learning about Farley's directive, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney had asked Farley to resign. "This action lacked empathy for the victims, their family, and the deep pain that the MOVE bombing has brought to our city for nearly four decades," Kenney said.

He also said, "It has been years now this family has been abused, not listened to, not taken seriously. These are all human beings. I try to think about my own family if they had been treated like that in postmortem. How angry, sad, confused, and traumatized I would be."

In wake of the latest developments, Farley released a statement of apology for the decision he made describing it as a "terrible error in judgment."

"Believing that investigations related to the MOVE bombing had been completed more than 30 years earlier, and not wanting to cause more anguish for the families of the victims, I authorized Dr. Gulino to … dispose of the bones and bone fragments," Farley said. "I made this decision on my own, without notifying or consulting anyone in the managing director's office or the mayor's office, and I take full responsibility for it."


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