An aerial view of ground zero on Sept. 22, 2001. Officer George Wong worked at the site and died of cancer last week, but the city removed the reference to 9/11 from his death certificate.
Howard Wong told the New York Post that Officer George Wong's hospice doctor, Lyla Coreoso, wrote "cancer" from "9/11 exposure" on his death certificate after he died last Thursday following a two-year battle with gastric cancer.
According to the Post, the medical examiner's office later changed the cause of death to "pending."
Ten minutes before the family was to hold a wake for the officer, who received a disability retirement in 2006 after 20 years on the force, city morgue workers came to take away the body, the brother said.
"The Health Department had issues with the wording on the cause of death -- that he died from exposure to 9/11 toxins -- and they ordered the medical examiner's office to do it over," he told the paper.
The family was allowed to hold the wake but the city took the body that night, forcing loved ones to postpone Tuesday's viewing and delaying his cremation and funeral.
"They totally disrespected our family. Now my brother can't even rest in peace because of this," the brother said.
The family did not allow an autopsy, so the city performed an "external examination" and changed the cause of death.
City officials said the medical examiner's policy is to do an autopsy or examination any time a death is not of natural causes.
"When we were advised by the Health Department that it was put through that he died of cancer as a consequence of working at ground zero, it became our case," said Ellen Borakove, a medical examiner spokeswoman.
The city maintains that it is still unclear whether there is a relationship between trade center exposure and later-emerging illnesses, including cancer. Its WTC Medical Working Group and other epidemiologists are studying it, the city said.
The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association blasted the city's actions in a statement Wednesday as an "unforgivable case of bureaucratic overreaction where legal concerns outweighed compassion for the grieving family of a hero police officer."