Sugar Land, Texas hospital patient death, suspicious autopsy looks like a cover-up


Contacting a competent medical malpractice attorney quickly allows an investigation to begin before a potential cover-up is complete

May 10, 2018

Some cases really stick out to me as showing why it is important for patients and family members to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney quickly after a serious healthcare-related injury or death.

While the general two-year Texas statute of limitations is a good reason to do so, today I am talking about something else.

I recently spoke with a new client about a strange situation that happened with his mother.

His mother was a healthy, active woman in her early 70's who consulted with a plastic surgeon in the Sugar Land, Fort Bend County, Texas area for some cosmetic surgery.  The plastic surgeon performed the procedure at a major Sugar Land hospital and kept the patient overnight in the hospital.  He prescribed morphine and Norco to deal with the expected post-surgical pain.

A family member stayed with the patient until she fell asleep, while still on pain medication, late that night.  The next morning, her son was driving on the way to the hospital when he received a frantic call from a nurse who said that they had found his mother in her hospital room unresponsive and called a Code Blue. 

He arrived at the hospital within 20 minutes of that terrible phone call. When he arrived at the hospital, a nurse told him that they had worked on his mom for 30 minutes, but could not revive her. She had already been declared dead.  In a torrent of grief, he went to the room to hold his mother’s hand and was surprised to find it already “ice cold.” 

My new client signed a consent form to have an autopsy performed by the Galveston County Medical Examiner.  In my experience as a Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney, having autopsies of Houston patients performed in Galveston is not unusual at all.  It is more a matter of timing and efficiency.

What happened next, though, is unusual and caught my attention. 

My client could not find his mother’s body.  The Galveston County Medical Examiner did not have it.  The funeral home did not know where it was.  The hospital was hush-hush.

After the funeral home’s lawyer got involved, he found out the Sugar Land hospital had chosen not to send his mother’s remains to Galveston, as he had authorized in writing. Instead, hospital administrators decided to have a pathologist at the hospital system’s other location in the Texas Medical Center do the autopsy.

Does this sound fishy to you?

My client is very suspicious of a cover-up by the hospital, particularly after the plastic surgeon told him that he thought the nursing staff had overmedicated his mother with pain killers.  Even worse, the plastic surgeon said that his mother would have still been alive if he had discharged her, instead of keeping her in the hospital overnight.

In a situation like this, Painter Law Firm immediately notifies all relevant hospitals and doctors that we are investigating the claim.  We also notify them not to destroy any evidence, including any tissue or other samples taken during the autopsy.

In this new case, we will be looking into the apparent malpractice that caused the patient’s untimely death, as well as the mysterious circumstances and hospital decision-making leading to the autopsy being performed under circumstances that suggest conflict of interest. It will certainly be interesting to see what the autopsy says.  We may need to hire a different pathologist to review the autopsy report and findings, as well as the slides and other materials, in order to obtain an unbiased cause of death.

Once we learn more about the case, I will write another article, so stay tuned.

We are here to help

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured by poor health care at North Cypress Medical Center, or any other hospital in Texas, our experienced medical negligence attorneys can help. Click here to send us a confidential email via our “Contact Us” form or call us at 281-580-8800.

All consultations are free and, because we only represent clients on a contingency fee, you will owe us nothing unless we win your case.


Robert Painter is a medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals, physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare providers. In 2017, H Texas magazine named him one of Houston’s top lawyers. In May 2018, the Better Business Bureau recognized Painter Law Firm PLLC with its Award of Distinction.

Robert Painter

Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.


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