Christus St. Catherine Hospital, Katy,Texas
By Marshall Allen, ProPublica
Linda Carswell has passed a major milestone in her quest to get her husband's heart back.
A Texas appeals court ruled Thursday against the hospital that has been blocking her from retrieving the heart of her husband, who had died unexpectedly while in the hospital's care in 2004. The court also upheld a $2 million fraud judgment Carswell won against the hospital.
Jerry Carswell, 61, had been admitted to Christus St. Catherine Hospital, in Katy, Texas, with kidney stones and was supposed to have gone home on the day he passed away in January 2004. He had been given narcotic painkillers, but the exact cause of death was never determined.
Linda, his wife of 33 years, filed a lawsuit and discovered something that's horrified her ever since: The hospital pathologist who did Jerry's autopsy kept his heart. Medical providers refused to return it, as ProPublica first reported in 2011. It remains refrigerated in a hospital morgue.
Carswell compares the legal battle to recover his heart to a search and rescue mission to duly honor and respect her husband. "It's in the hands of the people that took his life," Carswell said. "I don't want them to have anything that belongs to Jerry."
On the morning that Jerry died, Linda urged hospital employees to ask the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office for a complete and independent autopsy to determine the cause of death. But a hospital employee told Carswell that the medical examiner's office refused to take the case because officials there had been told that he died of renal failure.
That statement was described as "a material, false misrepresentation with at least reckless disregard for the truth" in the ruling by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas.