While preparing his recently deceased wife's body for transporation to a funeral home, an elderly man in Vernal, Utah says that city's police arrived at his house to confiscate Barbara Mahaffey's pain medications, which she had taken while dying of colon cancer. Eighty-year-old Ben Mahaffey is now suing Vernal. The Deseret News reports:
Barbara Alice Mahaffey died of colon cancer in her bedroom last May. Ben D. Mahaffey, 80, said he was distraught and trying to make sure his wife's body would be taken to the funeral home with dignity, when he says officers insisted he help them look for the drugs.
"I was holding her hand saying goodbye when all the intrusion happened," he told the Deseret News.
Barbara Mahaffey died at 12:35 a.m. with Mahaffey, a Navy medic in the Korean War, and his friend, an EMT, at her side. In addition to police, a mortician and a hospice worker arrived at the home about 12:45 a.m., Mahaffey said. He said he doesn't know how police came to be there.
Mahaffey said he was treated as if he were going to sell the painkillers, which included OxyContin, oxycodone and morphine, on the street.
In his suit, Mahaffey alleges that Vernal City Manager Ken Bassett told Mahaffey he was being "'overly sensitive' and that police were just trying to protect the public from illegal use of prescription drugs." The suit also alleges that Bassett then told Mahaffey "his own parents had recently died and he wouldn't have cared had police searched their house for drugs." Vernal has yet to comment on the lawsuit. Mahaffey's lawyer says that the pseudo-raid on the elderly couple's home is "common practice for Vernal police when someone dies, but that it's selectively applied."