Family Claims Grandmother Was Frozen Alive in Hospital Morgue

LOS ANGELES (CNN) – It’s a case that sounds like the plot of a horror movie.  A family claims a woman was prematurely declared dead at a hospital — and woke up in a body bag, only to die in a freezer where her body was stored.

Now, her outraged and grieving family has received the go-ahead to proceed with its lawsuit.

Maria de Jesus Arroyo’s family claims she was prematurely declared dead and put in the mortuary alive.

The family’s attorney says the woman’s body was found upside down in the body bag, a different position than she was put in.

The attorney hired an expert to review the case, who said in sworn testimony this shows she woke up due to extreme cold, being in the freezer, and damaged her face as she tried to fight her way out.

Maria de Jesus Arroyo (Family/CNN)

Maria de Jesus Arroyo (Family/CNN)

The expert said Arroyo, 80, was found with the bodybag approximately halfway open, consistent with her struggle to get out.  And, the expert says Arroyo died not of a heart attack, but asphyxiation and hypothermia.

A judge initially dismissed the case, but the appeals court reversed it and sent it back for a jury trial.

“This case deserves a jury verdict, and a jury will rule on it,” the family’s attorney said.

A trial date has not yet been set.

A spokesperson for the hospital says they can’t comment on the matter, since it’s in litigation.

9 comments

  • Michelle

    No disrespect intended however after working in a 1100 bed hospital in the ER level 1 trauma center and in Critical cardiac care for 13 years I never saw any I of our deceased patients brought to the morgue in a body bag it was not policy. The patients were brought down on stretchers and placed in the morgue freezer until funeral home picked them up regardless of cause of death. Not sure I can believe this one. If it was the county coroners office maybe cause they do place theirs in bags sometimes but after years in the health care business with many trips to the morgue I have never seen one in the morgue in a body bag.

    • Angela

      I’m guessing they must do it different at some hospitals, cause if that was the case in this situation, the hospital would have gotten out of that right away and just commented, “We don’t even have a policy that keeps people in the body bags in our freezers. So it’s impossible” Apparently they haven’t said that, so I’m thinking they must keep them inside bags. There was another case not long ago where a man woke in a body bag and the morgue worker saw him frantically trying to get out the bag. He wasn’t reported in a freezer however. Seems this is becoming a common accurance. Makes me wonder how many people’s died this way. Also makes me pray it never happens to me or any loved ones. For that matter I pray it dont happen to anybody else. Maybe they should put off putting them in freezers or bags just to make sure first. That has to be a Scarry way to die.

    • Jason

      I work as a security officer at a hospital. Part of my job is to put bodies in the morgue. They are always in body bags.

  • Steven Belsky

    SOLUTION

    1. Make sure ALL body bags have VERY (RIDICULOUSLY) LARGE INSIDE ZIPPER OPENERS.

    2. MAKE sure there are “I AM ALIVE / TRAPPED IN FREEZER” alarms at the DOOR, BACK WALL __ AND __ EACH BODY SHELF.

    This is good for both “BODIES” and trapped staff if they injure themselves while handling a body.

    MAKE SURE SOME ALARM BUTTONS ARE CLOSE TO THE FLOOR FOR PEOPLE WHO CAN ONLY CRAWL.

    MAKE sure the signs are back-lit 24 hours a day.

    Have the lights wired to indicator panels located;

    (A) outside the cold room / freezer

    (B) in the examination room (S),

    (C) in the lunch room

    (D) at the reception desk,

    (E) at the buildings security office,

    (F) at the building maintenance office

    (G) at the nearest 4 to 8 FIRE stations (in case 1 or more are on a run).

    (H) at the nearest 4 POLICE sub station / stations (in case a bomb clears the station)

    (I) at FIRE AND POLICE HEADQUARTERS.

    (F) AT A HOME MONITORING OFFICE

    USE A LOGICAL “NOT” GATE (I THINK) so if the INSIDE light goes out the OUTSIDE light goes on to indicate a burned out light.

    SEQUENCE ALARMS TO GO OFF IN 1 TO 3 MINUTE INCREMENTS SO A PARTY HAS A CHANCE TO RESPOND BEFORE THE ALARM GOES OFF.

    EACH panel has 2 or more lights

    “BURNED out light at body position ________

    For high shelves “THERE IS A PERSON IS ALIVE IN MORGUE COLD ROOM”

    For lower shelves “A PERSON IS ALIVE / INJURED OR TRAPPED IN MORGUE COLD ROOM.

    FOR “FEET IN FIRST” draws place ALARM BUTTONS on all four corners of ceiling above person

    1. in case a person is put into a draw as a prank HEAD FIRST (and forgotten about),

    2 a person is left or right handed

    3. a person is injured and needs to use a DIFFERENT LIMB to sound the alarm.

    • Jack

      Setting up a simple way for those who come back to life to get out of the freezer?!? That’s just leaving the door wide open to usher in the Zombie Apocalypse…and that’s just crazy talk.

  • Angela

    It’s a precaution for people who are mistaken as dead, not people who come back to life. While I think the ideas Steven gave seem a bit much, he had some good ideas. Because if this happened to this woman and it was in the news about the old man not long ago also. He got out the next morning alive. With two occurances not far from one another, seems to me this may be a common occurance. Not like they can come back and tell their story, so it goes undocumented.I’m just thinking I’d hate to be the one trapped in a freezer drawer, in a bag or not.

  • Jen

    Working in a hospital myself it’s us aides who prep (bag /tag) and take the body to the freezer. By the time we prep the body you can tell without being graphic they are gone so I don’t know how these idiots make mistakes like this!!

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