Navy doctor allegedly let kids hold, take pictures with dead marine's brain

A Navy medical examiner took a Marine's brain out of a specimen jar and let his children handle the organ, records show.

Dr. Mark E. Shelly has been fined $2,500 by the Virginia Board of Medicine and fired from his part-time job with the state medical examiner's office. A spokeswoman said the Navy was also taking disciplinary action but has not yet decided what to do.

Shelley was taking the brain from a naval hospital in Camp Lejeune, N.C., to Portsmouth Naval Medical Center in Virginia when he stopped at his home in Virginia Beach. He let his children handle the brain and his wife took pictures.

In an April 3 letter to the Board of Medicine, Shelly acknowledged he used "extremely poor judgment," The Virginian-Pilot reported Friday. He said he realized the impact his actions had on the family of the deceased and wrote that it was not his intention to be disrespectful to the Marine sergeant or his family.

The Board of Medicine said the handling of the brain did not affect a neuropathologist's ability to make a diagnosis, though it was not immediately clear how the Marine died.

Shelly is on active duty in an administrative role, a spokeswoman for Portsmouth Naval Medical Center said.

"We cannot comment on personnel actions, but appropriate disciplinary action is being taken," Deborah Kallgren wrote in an email to the Norfolk newspaper.

Shelly, 41, was commissioned into the Navy in 1994, according to military records.

Dr. Leah Bush, chief medical examiner of Virginia, said in an email that she learned about the handling from Portsmouth police, who received an anonymous tip.

Shelly's phone number was unlisted.