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Woman ‘frozen alive’ in hospital morgue

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The family of an elderly woman who was “frozen alive” in a Californian hospital morgue has had its lawsuit revived.

The woman, Maria de Jesus Arroyo, 80, was pronounced dead at White Memorial Medical Centre after suffering a heart attack in July 2010.

But, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times, when morticians removed her body from the hospital morgue a few days later, they found her body face down, her nose was broken, and there were cuts and bruises to her face.

In a subsequent examination, a pathologist concluded that the injuries most likely occurred while Ms Arroyo was alive – that is, that she had mistakenly been declared dead.

In his testimony at a District Court hearing in 2011, the pathologist said it appeared the elderly woman had been “frozen alive”, and when she had eventually woken up she had “damaged her face and turned herself face down as she struggled unsuccessfully to escape her frozen tomb”, according to court records cited by the Los Angeles Times.

At the time, the judge hearing the case dismissed the action brought by Ms Arroyo’s family because it came more than 12 months after they had discovered her injuries.

But early this month the 2nd District Court of Appeal overturned the decision, finding that the family could not have known that Ms Arroyo had been prematurely declared dead and frozen alive until the pathologist delivered his expert opinion in December 2011.

The case will now be heard by the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Adrian Rollins