In what we would hope would be an extremely unusual medical malpractice matter, a California hospital is being sued for prematurely pronouncing a woman as dead and then placing her inside of a hospital freezer. The woman’s family is now alleging that the woman froze to death.
The woman had been pronounced dead of a cardiac arrest in 2010. After viewing the body, the family members did not see her again until the funeral. They then noticed that her nose was broken and that she had bruises on her face. An expert testified at trial that these injuries most likely occurred while the woman was still alive. “I do not believe these wounds could occur postmortem,” the pathologist stated.
A trial court had originally dismissed this matter brought by the family due to the statute of limitations having run. This lawsuit had been thrown out prior to any response by the hospital to allegations that the deceased woman has been declared dead prematurely.
The appellate court sided with the family. It was felt that the family had no reason to believe that the woman was prematurely declared dead until they heard testimony from the pathologist at trial. It thus appears that the case will once again be heard in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
No matter how clear-cut the medical malpractice may seem, attorneys representing clients in these cases will often confront a number of challenges. While family members understandably will suffer trauma due to the death of a loved one in a manner such as this, attorneys still need to prove that medical malpractice occurred and was responsible for the injury or death.
Especially in a hospital setting, we cannot allow mistakes such as this to occur. Medical malpractice lawsuits are in place to make certain mistakes such as this never happen again.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Suit alleging L.A. hospital froze woman alive can proceed, court says,” Victoria Kim, April 2, 2014