Former Albuquerque Journal columnist and Corrales resident Jim Belshaw died as a result of a flubbed diagnostic test performed at University of New Mexico Hospital in 2020, according to a lawsuit filed against the hospital, UNM Health Services and the UNM Board of Regents.

Belshaw, known for his folksy, funny but fiercely opinionated columns during a more than 30-year career at the Journal, died Oct. 15 at age 78. It was reported at that time that he died of a stroke at his Corrales home.

The Journal reported that the wrongful death lawsuit filed last month by his widow, Elizabeth “Liz” Staley, alleges a catheter was lost during a cerebral angiography procedure in which dye is injected into the blood vessels of the brain to show up on X-rays.

The procedure is used to diagnose abnormalities, like plaque build up in blood vessels and aneurysms.

The lawsuit alleges the errant catheter resulted in brain hemorrhaging that subsequently led to Belshaw’s death.

The suit further alleges that after the procedure Belshaw complained to a nurse that he couldn’t hear and lost all sight in his left eye and most of of the vision in his right eye. He was unable to walk and was vomiting, it says.

“Mr. Belshaw saw no doctor and or other health care provider and was discharged by the nurse that day being wheeled out to his wife’s waiting car with no explanation provided to him or her,” the lawsuit states, according to the Journal.

The Comment reached out to UNM Health Services, but did not immediately hear back.

A UNM Health spokesman told the Journal that the allegations were being reviewed and an appropriate resolution will be found through the judicial system, adding that patient safety is their highest priority.

The lawsuit also claims that Belshaw was told by a neurologist during a phone call that the catheter was lost during the procedure and that the damage done to his brain was permanent. 

An Air Force veteran, Belshaw began working at the Journal in 1974 after graduating from UNM with a degree in journalism. He left for a two-year stint as a Public Information Officer at the university, but then returned to the Journal.

“On rejoining the Journal, he stayed on and on, an early riser who relished exploring the lives of both little known and better known New Mexicans, a story teller with a distaste for bullies, a lover of poker and, after retirement, a frequenter of Corrales’ Hannah and Nate’s cafe,” Corrales Comment wrote following Belshaw’s death.