HOUSTON (AP) — Nine years after her husband died unexpectedly and perhaps wrongfully in a hospital, Linda Carswell is still fighting to get his heart back.
Jerry Carswell, a state championship-winning high school track coach, died in 2004 while hospitalized for kidney stones. Christus St. Catherine Hospital, where he died, promised a full autopsy, but did not perform toxicology tests that could have determined whether the painkillers Carswell was given had anything to do with his death.
His heart was also kept by the hospital that conducted the autopsy — something Linda Carswell found out well after her husband's burial.
She sued St. Catherine for medical malpractice and won a nearly $2 million judgment three years ago. A state appeals court in Houston last week reaffirmed much of that judgment. It also lifted a stay the hospital had sought to keep the heart from being turned over to Carswell, according to her attorney, Neil McCabe.
But it's unclear, after nearly a decade of legal battles, when Carswell will be allowed to put the heart and the issue to rest — or why Christus wants to prevent the heart from being turned over.
The heart on its own could not be used to prove that Jerry Carswell died wrongfully, since its location and care likely cannot be fully traced, McCabe said.
Its value to Linda Carswell and her family is strictly emotional. They would like to place his heart in an urn and bury it beside his body.
"As a family we can respectfully bury Jerry and come to some sort of closure that we've done the right thing for the person we love," she told Houston television station KTRK.
A spokeswoman and an attorney for Christus did not immediately return phone messages.
St. Joseph Medical Center, the hospital that conducted the autopsy, said in a statement to KTRK that officials "intend to cooperate fully with the court's decision provided there are no further legal interventions in the case."
Christus could ask for a rehearing of the case at the appeals court or seek a new review by the Texas Supreme Court, McCabe said.
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