Heart returned to widow may not be human

Widow battling hospital to have her late husband's remains returned 10 years after his death

HOUSTON - A widow is battling a hospital to have her late husband's remains returned 10 years after his death.

She said what they finally returned to her might not even be human remains.

It has been a painful battle for Linda Carswell, in the courtroom and at home, without her husband, Jerry Carswell.

Ten years ago Jerry Carswell was admitted to Christus St. Catherine's Hospital in Katy for kidney stones. Linda Carswell said her husband died unexpectedly at the hospital.

"There's a big hole in my life. He should not have died. He was a healthy man," said Carswell.

So she wanted the hospital to arrange for a full autopsy.

"I said, 'I want an independent autopsy done,'" she said.

However, Carswell said the autopsy was not done at an independent facility. She said instead, it was done by a pathologist at St. Joseph Hospital, which had strong ties to Christus St. Catherine's.

She said a cause of death was never determined.

Carswell sued and the jury found Christus guilty of fraud. The jury awarded Linda Carswell $2 million, but the fight wasn't over.

She said through the court battle, St. Joseph Hospital kept a part of her husband's remains -- his heart.

Carswell said when she finally got the organ back and sent it to a crime lab -- the results were unimaginable. The lab claimed the organ showed no signs of DNA because it either was not preserved properly or because the organ was not human.

"It was just astounding to me," said Carswell.

Carswell and her attorney have filed a petition asking that representatives from the hospital be deposed to get more information about what happened to her husband's organs.

"Although I don't know what happened, what this latest petition is about is that we want to get some answers. I wouldn't put anything past these [hospital] people," said Carswell's attorney, Neil McCabe.

Local 2 reached out to all of the hospitals involved. St. Joseph issued a statement:

"Linda Carswell was notified on Aug. 23, 2013 that her husband's tissue samples would be released to her, and shortly thereafter a process was agreed upon to release those tissue samples to the family.

"On Nov. 19, 2013, Mr. Carswell's tissue samples were released to representatives from a funeral home of Mrs. Carswell's choosing, and all appropriate legal documentation was signed by both parties indicating that proper procedures were observed in the releasing of these specimens and to release Saint Joseph Medical Center from any further claims, demands or causes of action.

"Since that time, we have no way of knowing what may have happened to the specimens in question, or what was provided to NMS Laboratory."

Christus continues to appeal the initial autopsy fraud verdict.

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