Journalism in the Public Interest

Why Can’t Linda Carswell Get Her Husband’s Heart Back?

For almost eight years, Linda Carswell has been trying to find out how her husband died. Her quest has led to a fraud judgment against a hospital as well as autopsy reform in Texas. But she’s still seeking answers — and the return of his heart.

Linda Carswell poses at the Langham High School track by a memorial plaque for her husband. Her lobbying and testimony played a crucial role in the Jerry Carswell Memorial Act, a new informed consent for autopsies bill passed in Texas this year. (Sharon Steinmann/ProPublica)

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This story has been updated.

“Your husband is dead,” the doctor told Linda Carswell.

This was not supposed to happen. Jerry Carswell had been admitted to Christus St. Catherine Hospital in Katy, Texas, with kidney stones. The previous night, he’d been walking around his room, talking about basketball and the upcoming presidential election with his son, Jordan. The plan was for the 61-year-old to be discharged that morning.

Instead, at about 5 a.m., a phlebotomist entered Jerry’s room to draw blood and found him lying across the bottom of his bed, not breathing, mottled and blue, without a pulse. Staffers performed CPR for 25 minutes to no avail. Carswell was pronounced dead at 5:30 a.m. on Jan. 22, 2004.

Upon learning the news, Linda and Jordan Carswell rushed to Jerry’s bedside. Lying there, sheets and blankets folded halfway up his chest, he looked as if he could be dozing, except for the tubes running out of his mouth — remnants of the failed resuscitation effort. Linda shrieked and grabbed her husband’s cold hands, trying in vain to stir him.

The on-call doctor suggested that the Carswells authorize an autopsy, launching the family on a traumatic journey that still isn’t over.

Clinical autopsies, once commonplace in American hospitals, have become an increasing rarity and are conducted in just 5 percent of hospital deaths. Grief-stricken families like the Carswells desperately want the answers that an autopsy can provide. But they often do not know their rights in dealing with either coroners or medical examiners, who investigate unnatural deaths, or health-care providers, who delve into natural ones.

For the last year, ProPublica, PBS “Frontline” and NPR have examined flaws in the U.S. system of death investigation, finding that mistakes in America’s morgues have sometimes helped convict the innocent and allowed the guilty to go free.

Jerry Carswell (courtesy Linda Carswell) The Carswells’ experience illustrates a different kind of injustice. Their case would play out in pathology labs, lawyers’ offices and courtrooms for more than seven years. It led to a rare $2 million fraud judgment against Christus St. Catherine, which was found by a jury to have deceived Linda Carswell about Jerry’s autopsy. It also led to state legislation designed to strengthen families’ entitlement to comprehensive, independent postmortem reviews.

It has not, however, led to closure or accountability. Thanks to an incomplete autopsy, Jerry Carswell’s cause of death remains unknown. He also has not been laid fully to rest. His heart, retained by the pathologist who conducted his postmortem examination, sits in a refrigerated cabinet in a hospital lab to this day.

None of the hospital employees involved in the Carswell case would answer questions from ProPublica. In a written statement, hospital officials said they provided good care to Carswell, and that his autopsy was sufficient.

Linda Carswell, an English teacher at one of Houston’s elite private schools, said her family’s macabre saga has left her lonely and disillusioned. She’s had to navigate complex establishments — medical and legal — while processing the shocking loss of her husband. Measured and proper, with black hair streaked by strands of white, she cannot seem to make peace with her loss.

Linda and Jerry, a history teacher and track coach, had been married for 33 years, raising two sons. She recalled how they would sit on the couch, her head on his chest, listening to the thump-thump of his heart. She is determined to get it back.

“It’s not just a piece of flesh,” Linda said. “Your heart stands for love. It stands for who a person is.”

A call to the medical examiner

Jerry Carswell had been a patient at Christus St. Catherine for two days before he died.

A scan performed on admission showed that, in addition to kidney stones, he had a cancerous tumor on one of his kidneys. It was in an early stage and not considered life-threatening, his hospital doctor said. At times, he was given medication to treat intense pain. He was administered the narcotic Demerol in the hours before his death, records show.

State law required that the hospital report Carswell’s death to the county medical examiner’s office because it was unexplained, unobserved and had occurred soon after he had received medical care. 

But it’s unclear whether this step was taken. Hospital records show that the night administrator made a minute-long phone call to the medical examiner’s office at 6:35 a.m., but the office later provided an affidavit saying  it had no record of the call

It may not have mattered. Medical examiners rarely investigate deaths at health-care facilities, experts say. Often, their resources are already stretched by homicides, suicides and other suspicious deaths. They are seldom inclined to dig further if staffers at a medical facility ascribe a death to natural causes.

In court testimony, the night administrator at Christus St. Catherine said she had reported hundreds of hospital deaths to the Harris County medical examiner’s office and it had never taken a case.

As she sat with her husband’s body, Linda Carswell was unaware of the hospital’s reporting requirement, or that the medical examiner was supposed to assess his case. She and Jordan said they noticed that no one at the hospital would answer questions about how Jerry had died. They knew Jerry had been administered narcotics during his stay, and wondered whether the drugs had played a role in his death. 

Linda said that when she asked Patty Elam, a daytime charge nurse, to call the medical examiner’s office to request an autopsy, Elam told her the office had already turned down the case. Elam declined to comment for this story but said in court testimony that she did not speak with Carswell about the call to the medical examiner’s office. Linda did not press the matter further, a decision she came to regret.

Autopsy leaves questions unanswered

With the medical examiner out of reach, Linda Carswell was determined that Jerry’s death would not go unexplained. According to both her and Jordan, she asked Barbara Lazor, a Christus St. Catherine administrator, about whether a private autopsy could be arranged.

Carswell said the administrator told her a private autopsy could cost as much as $10,000. Lazor offered to have the hospital provide an autopsy for free, but Carswell had concerns about authorizing the procedure. She was uneasy about whether the hospital was being entirely truthful with her about Jerry’s care.

Carswell said Lazor assured her that the autopsy would be independent — performed by a pathologist at a different hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center. Elam returned with a consent form. Linda checked off the box requesting a “complete autopsy” and signed her name.

Later, in court, Lazor and Elam would deny ever speaking to the Carswells about anything related to the autopsy. The hospital employees would not comment to ProPublica. 

Pathologist Jeffrey Terrel started the autopsy on Jan. 23, the day after Jerry died.

The scope of his examination wasn’t what the Carswells had assumed it would be, however. Jordan Carswell said he and his mother expected a “complete” autopsy to be exhaustive, including whatever it took to determine the cause of death. Linda and Jordan Carswell said they insisted to hospital officials that they must test Jerry’s urine for drugs to see if they contributed to his death.

But Terrel performed no toxicology tests on Jerry’s blood or urine. Terrel later testified that Jerry’s medical records suggested that drugs could not have contributed to his death, based on dosage levels and the time of administration.

According to experts, Terrel’s approach was standard for a clinical autopsy. Even though the Institute of Medicine has reported that medication errors affect an estimated 1.5 million patients per year, it is not typical to conduct toxicology tests as part of clinical autopsies. They are routine in forensic autopsies.

Terrel testified he had performed more than 1,000 autopsies since starting his career at St. Joseph Medical Center in 1977 and had never determined that an overdose caused a patient's death.  Further, he testified that he had never classified a death as “accidental” because those cases would be referred to the medical examiner, court records show.

In his preliminary report, Terrel said he suspected a heart attack was the cause of death, but his final autopsy report said there was no evidence of a heart attack. In court, Terrel said he still thinks a heart attack is the most medically probable explanation.

Terrel also testified that the cause of death was natural, ruling out medical error.

As Terrel performed Jerry Carswell’s postmortem exam, Linda came across some discomfiting information. St. Joseph Medical Center was owned by the same company that owned Christus St. Catherine, the hospital where Jerry died. The pathology group that employed Terrel worked for both facilities, she learned.

Carswell said that if she had known that the hospitals were linked, she would have paid for a private autopsy elsewhere. Six days after her husband’s death, she and Jordan delivered a letter to the pathology lab at St. Joseph Medical Center, requesting the preservation of tissue and fluid samples “following any diagnosis that may be made.”

Terrel later testified that he interpreted Carswell’s letter as a legal threat. He stopped working on the case immediately, putting Jerry Carswell’s tissue samples and specimen slides into a cabinet.

Jerry Carswell’s admitting physician, urologist Paul Cook, filled out and signed the death certificate. Cook listed several findings from Terrel’s final autopsy report as causes of death:  inflammation and infection of the abdomen and stomach, as well as the cancerous kidney tumor. He checked off “natural” for the manner of death.

Yet, during the trial, he testified that Jerry Carswell hadn’t needed treatment for the stomach or abdominal problems and that the prognosis for the kidney cancer was good

Cook did not respond to a request to speak to ProPublica.

'You have Mr. Carswell's heart'

Linda Carswell compares not knowing why her husband died to the way a soldier’s widow would feel if her husband went to battle and never returned. It ate away at her psyche. Hospital officials’ refusal to discuss the matter fanned her grief into anger.

On June 7, 2005, Carswell sued the hospital in Harris County District Court, alleging negligence and fraud. “It was strictly for us to know what exactly had happened,” she said of the lawsuit.

The legal proceedings went on for years. In October 2006, her attorney, Carl Shaw, took a deposition from Terrel that led to a ghastly revelation. Shaw was attempting to determine what evidence Terrel had retained from the case.

“Is there anything more than the slides?” Shaw asked.

“Yes. The heart,” Terrel replied.

Shaw was taken aback. “You have Mr. Carswell’s heart,” he repeated. 

“Yes,” Terrel confirmed, “and there may be blocks of other tissue.”

Terrel went on to say that he had not informed anyone of what he had done, including Linda Carswell.

When Shaw told Linda the pathologist had kept her husband’s heart, she collapsed into a chair in her kitchen and wept.

Later, in trial testimony, Terrel said he had misspoken in the deposition and that he had not retained the entire heart. 

Pathologists told ProPublica that organs are typically returned or disposed of once tests performed as part of an autopsy are complete. It’s inappropriate to retain them for an extended period without the consent of the next of kin, said Dr. Victor Weedn, an assistant medical examiner for the state of Maryland.

In March 2008, a Harris County judge hit Christus Health, the company that owns Christus St. Catherine, with a $250,000 fine for improperly keeping Jerry Carwell’s heart tissue and running tests on it without his family’s permission, as well as mishandling his blood serum. “They were using Jerry’s heart against him,” Linda said. “I was just furious.”

The lawsuit finally went to trial in August 2010. After 22 days of testimony, a jury cleared hospital nurses of negligence but determined that Christus St. Catherine officials had committed fraud when obtaining consent for the autopsy from Linda Carswell. The jury awarded Linda Carswell $2 million, including $1 million in punitive damages.

The hospital has appealed, arguing there is insufficient evidence that administrators misled Linda Carswell or knowingly made false statements about the autopsy. 

Despite the jury’s multimillion-dollar affirmation, Linda Carswell remains angry that the negligence claim failed. The case was difficult to argue without an autopsy yielding a confirmed cause of death, said Mike O’Brien, the Carswells’ trial attorney.

“Without the autopsy, you’re hamstrung,” he said.

Autopsy reform in Jerry Carswell's name

As the lawsuit dragged on, Linda Carswell mulled over the events of that morning in the hospital. She was not aware of the differences between forensic and hospital autopsies. And when she looked up the law, she learned that the medical examiner’s office was required to consider cases like Jerry’s. The realization that she could have pushed for a forensic autopsy by the medical examiner’s office caused her to roam the house at night, sleepless, wondering how she could have been so ignorant about the law.

Carswell was determined to ensure that other families were informed of their rights. She discovered that health-care facilities used different autopsy consent forms, some of which did not clearly set out families’ entitlement to independent private or forensic autopsies. She called a family friend, Texas Rep. Bill Callegari, and urged him to introduce legislation requiring doctors to use standardized forms that would make a complex system easier to navigate.

Callegari could identify with Carswell’s distress. Decades earlier, his brother, a 27-year-old Air Force B-52 navigator, had been killed during a training mission in Wisconsin under mysterious circumstances.  Callegari finally learned the cause of the accident after he was elected in 2000. A stranger, recognizing his name, explained that the plane had malfunctioned while testing some high-tech equipment.  

The Carswell family would never have a similar reprieve from the pain of not knowing. “What happened in this case was atrocious,” Callegari said of Jerry Carswell’s death. “You can feel the anguish. You want to know. Right is right, and you have a right to know what happened.”

In September, the Jerry Carswell Memorial Act, which Linda worked with Callegari to draft, went into effect. It requires Texas hospitals to use a standardized autopsy consent form that spells out families’  rights when a loved one dies in a medical facility, including: the circumstances under which a medical examiner is required to conduct an investigation; that, in cases not taken by a medical examiner, survivors have a right to have an independent pathologist conduct a clinical autopsy; that the family has a right to place special limitations on the examination; and that the person giving consent for the autopsy controls the release of the remains.

Had the law been in place when Jerry died, Linda said, she is certain she would have the answers she needs. “And most likely Jerry’s heart would not still be in a plastic bucket at St. Joseph’s.”

The missing heart

In the years since her late husband’s autopsy, Linda Carswell has repeatedly asked the attorneys representing the hospitals and pathologist to return his heart.

The hospital attorneys have refused, saying the heart could become relevant evidence in the case of a retrial. The attorney for Terrel, the pathologist, said the heart was no longer in the possession of Terrel, the pathology group or St. Joseph Medical Center. Rather, it was owned by a different company that has since taken over the hospital, the attorney said. In 2006, Hospital Partners of America purchased St. Joseph, but the company went bankrupt two years later. Carswell sent a letter to the bankruptcy trustee, offering to buy back Jerry’s heart. It was an asset of little worth in the bankruptcy, she told the trustee, but of great value to her family. 

Linda recently learned that St. Joseph Medical Center is under new ownership, but she’s not giving up.

She has selected a special urn where her husband’s heart can be laid to rest.

Update, May 24, 2016: The winding litigation related to the death of Linda Carswell’s husband led to a Texas Supreme Court opinion on Friday that unanimously ruled against the widow. The court determined that Carswell’s fraud allegation should have been included in her original malpractice claim, and because it was added more than two years after her husband’s death it exceeded the statute of limitations for the case, making it invalid.

The arrogance of the medical community knows no bounds.
Good for Ms. Carswell. Hopefully, with the help of the media, she will persevere and ultimately triumph over those who are certain that only they and God can waste a human life without consequences.
Just be glad she doesn’t live in a state like Oklahoma, where the Republican legislature has capped medical malpractice awards..

Actually, Bob, Texas DOES have a cap on medical malpractice payouts for ‘non-economic’ damages. But it’s adjusted annually to inflation, so that it’s slowly crept up from the original cap of, I think, $500K.

Suzanne Black

Dec. 15, 2011, 6:28 p.m.

I salute Ms. Carswell.  The medical profession, as well as hospitals,
think they can play “God” and can get away with the medical errors.
I wish you well!  Another example of corporation greed - even when
it involves a life.  May you soon find peace and your husband’s heart
returned to you.  Bless you!

They always do this, bankruptcy, doesn’t mean they are not responsible.Dow Corning did this with the breast implants while making record profits. They did have to pay out. Their ethics officer’s wife died from leaking silicone.
This woman’s husband most likely died from a pulmonary clot from the abd/kidney infection. Being dead, they could not really do a “contrasted MRI” now could they? They’d have to use GADOLINIUM metal, no circulation, but they could do an MRI/CT imaging on the remaining heart tissue, which does not belong to the hospital.
Colorado has tight tort laws, the they all know what /who is trying to sue, but they don’t pick up on it. They decide if they want to do it or not.One told me they would, but I’d end up paying them even though they could win my case. The new computer printouts of records from UCH Aurora, useless, all junk, waste of paper, They messed up and sent me 2010 records, which I have , so many ommissions, lies, coverups, those were just 7 clinic appts, too. Watch out for nuclear and metal scans.,they inject you with that crap. TC99 worst, alerts showed Ovide- a new formula pesticide for lice- malathion lotion w TC99. not new, all meds will eventually have nuclear tracers in them. Not the Chinese that are putting them in their, the US Gov’t knows. Those supplements? so many take. Junk meds. Poison metals. Gad+3 is poison. It happened to me. I caught them early. Still have kidney damage.

“Owned?” A human being—in whole or in part—can now be “owned” in this country? At what point does the next of kin lose the right to ensure the respectful and proper treatment of human remains?

I would recommend that Linda Carswell call up the pathologist and ask to meet with him.  Or she could go to the hospital, find the pathology lab and meet with the pathologist directly.  At that time she should ask to see the heart, and to explain that it is important that it be returned to her.  It won’t do any good to attempt to achieve this through the attorneys.  In general, pathologists are happy to meet with patients, and are willing to provide reports and tissue samples as needed.

From the article:  “State law required that the hospital report Carswell’s death to the county medical examiner’s office because it was unexplained, unobserved and had occurred soon after he had received medical care. 

But it’s unclear whether this step was taken. Hospital records show that the night administrator made a minute-long phone call to the medical examiner’s office at 6:35 a.m., but the office later provided an affidavit saying it had no record of the call.”

From the pathologist:  “But Terrel performed no toxicology tests on Jerry’s blood or urine. Terrel later testified that Jerry’s medical records suggested that drugs could not have contributed to his death, based on dosage levels and the time of administration.”

These are amazing statements.  This case was botched from start to finish. 

Inside the Medicare program the joke is hospitals are where you go to die.  Most Americans do not know this, but almost every U.S. hospital capable of paying the fee is accredited for Medicare by a private organization based in Chicago, The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).  It’s a pay to play system, and the local state health department will never inspect most hospitals unless there is a patient anti-dumping complaint under a 1986 federal law, and that law has been watered down over the years by well heeled lobbyists employed by for-profit hospital chains.  This is all that stands between you and eternity when you go into a U.S. hospital.  Not only is our health system twice as expensive as most modern nations, it is not very good (unless, of course, you are rich).

Aw, Max, don’t tell me things like that!  Now I want to see what’s involved in JCAHO accredidation to see if I can get my basement declared a hospital…

Seriously, though, this is why I find myself standing against universal healthcare.  This is NOT the system I want my tax money going to.

Myself, as a teenager, I had what the doctor identified as a burst appendix.  He refused to operate for an obscure reason, and thankfully the problem went away in a few days, rather than having these bunglers open me up.  But that instinct could easily have gone the other way and killed me.

Guess how much I trust hospitals after being told, “I don’t know what the hell you had.”

John - Congrats on surviving.  It’s probably more dangerous than you imagine.  In the 1990s, Dana Farber Cancer Hospital, a prestigious Boston hospital, managed to kill off the Boston Globe’s health reporter by accidently administering her ten times the recommended dose of chemo in an experimental program for pancreatic cancer.  Dana Farber is alive and well, unlike that particular patient, and highly accredited by JCAHO.  What killed the reporter was a missing decimal point that vanished under multiple sheets of carbon paper. The hospital’s correction plan to stay in Medicare was to automate its pharmacy.  The good news about JCAHO surveys is if you are lucky enough to be an inpatient during their week-long survey every single hospital employee will be there, the hospital will be spotless, and the employees will even remember where the nearest fire extinguisher is located plus the latest emergency evacuation plan.  The best approach to the current U.S. medical system is to stay out of any hospital, especially for-profit hospitals, and if you must be an inpatient, get out as soon as possible.  Given the nature of our private insurance system, that last part won’t be a problem.

Geeze, it’s just tissue, for Pete’s sake.

“...saying the heart could become relevant evidence”

Makes me think that heart contains a fragment of a hypodermic needle or the signature of a gas embolism or an “Ooops…I thought I was the only one boosting him with Demerol…”- or “That said Demerol?  Man, Dr. [  ]‘s writing stinks.”-type event.

William P. Gibbons, M.D.

Dec. 16, 2011, 6:23 p.m.

As a pathologist with many years of experience, I am astonished that Dr. Terrel interpreted Mrs. Carswell’s letter requesting preservation of tissue and fluid samples as a “legal threat” that somehow justified stopping the autopsy. That Dr. Terrel “stopped working on the case immediately” is extraordinary.

However, later in the article the author refers to Dr. “Terrel’s final autopsy report”, without telling the reader that he at some time completed the autopsy. We are never told whether Dr. Terrel addressed the cause of death in his final report, only that the attending physician wrote on the death certificate some of the findings from the autopsy as “causes of death” even though, taken at their face value, they did not appear to be sufficient to explain Mr. Carswell’s death.

It is inexcusable that Dr. Terrel did not freeze tissue and blood samples for toxicological analysis. The purpose of an autopsy always includes forensic purposes although at the start that may not be so. As the case proceeds and before it is too late, forensic reasoning should naturally include the possibility of toxicologic analysis, especially when gross anatomic findings do not supply an obvious cause of death. Virtually all good autopsies will support a forensic purpose.

Usually the autopsy permit gives the pathologist discretionary authority to retain tissues for scientific and educational study if the findings are striking or unusual, or until the autopsy report is final. Any remaining tissues are to be properly disposed of, usually by cremation in my experience.

A request,such as Mrs. Carswell’s, for return of the heart should absolutely be honored. I am sure she never authorized this sort of retention of tissues by the pathologist. Although the heart may have been the crux of the autopsy, and even if completely normal and not demonstrating a cause of death, the heart, in whole or in part, should have been returned to Mrs. Carswell for proper burial and closure.

Dr. Terrel has a primary responsibility to Mrs. Carswell to explain his findings in person or however requested.

Also, the article is not clear whether Dr. Terrel was sued; I assume he was.

You should publish the autopsy report with the appropriate permissions, and ask for comments from pathologists, the way the NY Times presents a real clinical puzzle and asks readers and physicians for comment and diagnoses.

Keep up the series and the good work. The subject of autopsies and .
the refusal of 3rd party payers to fund autopsy services is a national disgrace.

If you are a patient when JCAHCO is present, BEWARE. Many bad patients are discharged, transferred. The staff is prepped on their questions. Bad staff gets the day off. The hide things, objects, papers and charts out of site.Been done for years. I could not believe that Fitzsimmons Army Med Center passed JCHO or Joint Commission as they want to known, passed their inspection before they closed under BRAC. When I wend to Madigan AMC in 95, they had 4 year old IV solutions in the Operating Room refridgerators that I removed. So, don’t tell me they are not paid off. They are an INSIDE JOB. never responded to my complaint about University of Colorado MD’s. They investigated them never responded to me, only “closed my case”.  Ignoring the complainant will not make anything go away. It will be worse to hide what they do there from the public and our future soldier patients when they build the new VA on campus. I don’t go there anymore. The entire region of hospitals in Colorado is the worst medical care I’ve ever experienced or worked in. Do not get sick in Colorado. The will kill you slowly with all their poisons they give you, including MRI and CT and heart/ VQ scans and medications as well as their repulsive magnet nurses and staff doctors. Liars.

Re the above comments about University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, all of this is to be expected.  About 15 years ago the Legislature passed a law virtually immunizing the state government against civil judgments. You can still sue and prevail, but according to a number of law firms in the state, but (with a few exceptions) you cannot collect. Since the firms are businesses hoping to benefit from these costly suits, they seldom try anymore.

The downfall of a once-fine teaching hospital dates from this law’s passage.  Without the possibility of judgments in all but a few cases, UCH has gotten slack and sloppy in many ways, departing not only from excellence but from common standards of clinical practice.

For example, you’d think a hospital that performs a great deal of surgery, much of it on people who with impaired health, would have a top-notch wound clinic to make sure the incisions heal properly.

But no: UCH disbanded its wound clinic years ago.  And in the surgical departments it has laid off many of its most skilled charge nurses, the front line people responsible for a patient’s recovery after the doctors have moved on to the next surgery.

Many other examples of such malfeasance. Stay away from this organization if you can; if you are a member of a public program requiring you to use UCH, research everything you can and make sure they knowing you are watching carefully.  Taking notes is a good way to let them know this.

I suspect he died from an infarction. As to retaining the heart, ““Your heart stands for love. It stands for who a person is.” . . . Sheesh join the 21st century lady. the heart is a muscle that pumps blood.  As a diener for over 20 years I threw out dozens of brains and hearts. And no, I wouldn’t feel differently if it were a relative as I threw my father’s heart out 8 weeks after his autopsy.
  Maybe they need to rewrite their autopsy permit. Ours stated that we could retain what we needed, period.

Thanks for the support on UCH’s egregious “healthcare”. They have a helipad across the street from the ER. Not sure if the ambulance transfer fee is charged. The OR’s are too far from the instrument room and the hospital beds do not fit in the elevators. That means they could not PASS a fire safety drill.
The chart I reviewed shows clear and fraudulent rewriting of clinic notes to include lab work that was not done, even the doctor in the rheumatology/allergy/immunology clinic agreed “it looks like it wasn’t done” in the rheumatology “lab”. Of course it WAS NOT done. It was split with the VA; which is staffed by the Univ of Colorado as well as Denver Health and National Jewish and St. Joseph’s hospital. The chart has 2011 notes added to 2010. Information they would not have had. It has allergy “none listed”, the next page lists the allergies and adverse medications (most were Rx’d by 1-2 MD’s) but this is in the Allergy Clinic’s notes by the MD. The allergy list was never made current or CORRECTED even when discussed with the patient.

The MD and RN’s changed/added/deleted information re : insurance to cover tests, that UCH had to eat them, Cort Stym and Abd Ultrasound? Sound familiar to those involved reading this? Hope so. That includes Denver Health Cobra. ID clinic is just as bad. She is hopeless. She doesn’t even know “where patients come from” and had to be shown around the Pepsi center. She cannot “tell” the difference of flea bites vs herpes which DOES not present on the forearms or legs, but a skin biopsy instead showed increased DERMAL mucin.

The immunologist denied knowing what this is but wrote a letter last year that the patient has connective tissue disease.  All their labs showed that they were looking for kidney and MRI gadolinium changes. SCL-70-neg, inc D dimers yes, numerous times, with a narrative that is missing as well as 3 out of 5 pages for the skin biopsy, done by non UCH MD’s for billing. pt’s gadolinium level at MAYO clinic is .3ng/ml after last MRI at the VA Dec and Sept 2010. But many more prior to that and the kidney function low as 44 and 55 and now has CKD, pt never told this but shown eGFR of 73, 90.

This is never done only when the kidney function is less that 60 is a number given. So, Why all the DECEPTION? They are not very good at it either. Run for your life!

How does an ENT tell a pt’s MD they don’t need IV antibiotics with a positive pseudomonas culture on bronch but instead needs prednisone? This would make the lung infection worse. Pt was denied antibiotics for several months, but had pseudomonas for 2 years untreated. How does this occur?

I wouldn’t be surprised if they infected the patient. The same immunologist did not know about 1500 DNA mutations for the pt’s main condition which triggered a disability but he does research at National Jewish? That Ned Colonge on the page, he is a former, “this is old news” Kaiser Permanente doctor. Really, RUN for your life from this horrible diaster for a hospitals and healthcare who gets many of it’s residents who are now staff from the now US Gov’t run UTSW-Dallas Parkland hospital. They failed humanity. Pt’s died, neglected, residents unsupervised;, oh the ID doc who was director of transplants and her husband is a kidney doctor in the lab, now seeing patients? How is that?

Violet Pucsek

Dec. 20, 2011, 5:52 p.m.

Most people have no experience with the medical system until something serious happens.  Families who experience an unexpected death are particularly vulnerable because they are grieving and not prepared to deal with the bureaucracy involved with an autopsy.  The hospital was more concerned with covering its butt than being straight about the cause of death.  However, cause of death is not always a straight forward matter especially if there are several issues ongoing with the patient.  I applaud Ms Carswell’s efforts concerning the autopsy consent form.  My sympathies to her.

Rhonda Edwards

Dec. 21, 2011, 3:27 p.m.

This case haunts me to this day.  If only others had been truthful they would have found out how big the coverup was.  I don’t even know how to put into words knowing that he knew something was very wrong and was alone when he passed.

@Rhonda Edwards:  Especially since this American apparently had the wealth and so insurance required to buy life from America’s medical establishment.  Rude, to have the feeling of security that comes from knowing that you are surrounded by the best medical care your money can buy blown apart by the sudden arrival of your own death.

I guess the many Americans whose economic circumstances eliminate any need to worry about medical incompetence gain one advantage over those who have the wealth required to pass through the doors of “the best health care system in the world”:  They - and their families - are of necessity better prepared for death. 

Hopefully, anyway.

I could see the suffering that Mrs Carswell is going through. May God give you the strength to find the truth and achieve peace in your heart.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Post Mortem

Post Mortem: Death Investigation in America

A year-long investigation into the nation’s 2,300 coroner and medical examiner offices uncovered a deeply dysfunctional system that quite literally buries its mistakes.

The Story So Far

In TV crime dramas and detective novels, every suspicious death is investigated by a highly trained medical professional, equipped with sophisticated 21st century technology.

The reality in America’s morgues is quite different. ProPublica, in collaboration with PBS “Frontline”  and NPR, took an in-depth look at the nation’s 2,300 coroner and medical examiner offices and found a deeply dysfunctional system that quite literally buries its mistakes.

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