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Grandmother froze to death, family files medical malpractice suit

Determining whether a patient is actually dead might not appear to be a matter that is easily mishandled. However, the California family of a woman who was apparently not deceased when she was brought to the morgue claims that is exactly what happened. Although there were some roadblocks while initially filing the suit, the family is now moving forward with a medical malpractice claim concerning what they say was the woman's wrongful death.

The victim was an 80-year-old woman and a grandmother with dozens of grandchildren. Back in 2010, doctors claimed that she had died as a result of a heart attack. From that point, she was placed in a body bag, transported to a morgue and left in a refrigerated drawer for several days. What morgue workers found when they removed the woman's body may have shocked them.

The grandmother who was supposed to have died from a heart attack may not have died at all, and the cool air of the morgue drawer possibly woke her up. When morgue workers removed her body, they found that the body bag was partially unzipped and that the woman was facing down instead of up. Additionally, she sported several cuts and bruises, as well as a broken nose -- injuries that her family says she did not have before leaving the hospital. Later on, a medical report revealed that the cause of death wasn't a heart attack at all. Instead, the woman had frozen to death.

The medical malpractice lawsuit pursued by the victim's family was initially dismissed due to the period of time that had lapsed since the death. A later ruling declared that the suit could indeed move forward since the family did not receive the medical examiner's report concerning the death until over a year after the incident. According to the family, it is likely that this California grandmother woke in the body bag and panicked, attempted to fight her way out and eventually died due to the cold temperatures. If successfully litigated, the medical malpractice lawsuit may provide financial recourse to the victim's family. In some instances, this can bring a sense of peace and justice to a family struggling with an apparent wrongful death.

Source: NBC Los Angeles, "Grandmother Died Trying to Escape Morgue Freezer: Lawsuit", Andrew Lopez, Hetty Chang, Jason Kandel and Jonathan Lloyd, April 4, 2014

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