Lise Olsen

Lise Olsen is a Houston-based senior writer and editor, working mom, and yogini. Reach her at [email protected] or by phone or Signal at 281-454-1933.

Health Care

Conception Deception

An East Texas doctor who allegedly used his own sperm to impregnate patients remains in practice. Why has the Texas Medical Board let him keep his license?

In 1984, Pauline Chambless went to Dr. Kim McMorries in Nacogdoches for help after she struggled for more than a decade to have a child. After multiple attempts using donors from a California sperm bank, McMorries located a local sperm … Read More

Lab work at Houston Methodist Hospital.
Health Care

Promising Results Reported for COVID-19 Patients Treated with Plasma Therapy in Texas

The speed with which physicians and patients across the United States have signed up to participate in the ongoing plasma therapy project is unprecedented.

The 61-year-old postal worker arrived at Austin’s Ascension Seton hospital in April in respiratory distress—he had a high fever, struggled to breath, and needed large doses of supplemental oxygen. When Raul Chagoya’s COVID-19 test came back positive, his treating physicians … Read More


Raise a Glass to the Class of COVID-19

Maybe they will help build a post-pandemic world (or so I hope).

My senior year of high school was all about parties, prom, one last wild class camping trip, and midnight diner runs with friends before we all sped away to our far-flung future lives. We stayed up all night after graduation, … Read More

Part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's William G. McConnell Unit in Beeville, Texas, stands at sunset Wednesday, April 15, 2020. More than 26,000 people have been locked down in 22 Texas prisons that are keeping prisoners in their cells in an effort to contain the coronavirus, according to the TDCJ's most recent numbers. The McConnell Unit is not one of the 22. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Criminal Justice

Texas Health Officials Undercount COVID-19 Cases by Excluding Some Prisoners Who Tested Positive

The Observer identified at least nine Texas counties where current prison cases make up more than 10 percent of the total COVID-19 cases in the county.

COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed in Texas prisons in recent weeks, with the virus infecting and killing incarcerated people and staff, and likely spreading into nearby communities through the thousands of workers who travel back and forth each day. Yet some … Read More

Dianne Gonsoulin Hastings, pictured outside her Austin home, spent decades looking for her sister Donna.
Criminal Justice

The Disappeared

Genetic genealogy is helping to crack cold cases and identify victims left nameless for decades. The process is surprisingly effective—and controversial.

Genetic genealogy is helping to crack cold cases and identify victims left nameless for decades. The process is surprisingly effective—and controversial. By Lise Olsen May 4, 2020  For nearly 30 years, Dianne Gonsoulin Hastings tried to discover what befell her … Read More

Julie Janke, a medical technologist at Principle Health Systems and SynerGene Laboratory, holds blood samples to be tested for COVID-19 antibodies Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Houston. The company, which opened two new testing sites Tuesday, is now offering a new COVID-19 antibody test developed by Abbott Laboratories.
Health Care

Demand for Plasma Therapy for the Sickest COVID-19 Patients Far Outpaces Donations

Texas blood banks and the Red Cross are actively recruiting donors but remain thwarted by a lack of antibody tests.

A few weeks ago, the Food and Drug Administration dropped a huge project in the lap of the American Red Cross: Help sign up enough people to donate plasma rich with COVID-19 antibodies to treat more than 6,500 patients clamoring … Read More

A dummy once used for rehabilitation therapy at Bowie Memorial Hospital.
Health Care

Dozens of COVID-19 Cases Have Been Reported in Rural Texas Counties With No Hospitals and No Licensed Physicians

So far, more than 100 cases have been reported in counties with only one—or no—licensed physician.

The first reported COVID-19 death in Texas arrived unexpectedly in a rural hospital with just six beds in its tiny ICU. Eddie Roberts, a 97-year-old funeral home owner and World War II veteran, died March 15 at Matagorda Regional Medical … Read More

Medical professionals wait by empty beds during a tour of the new Harris County Non-Congregate Medical Shelter at NRG Park Saturday, April 11, 2020, in Houston. The new temporary setup will have 250 beds initially with a capacity of 2000 beds, if needed, to help relieve pressure on the hospital system from COVID-19 patients. Activation is not intended at this time. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Health Care

Houston Is Ground Zero for a Potentially Lifesaving COVID-19 Treatment

A plasma treatment trial is now rolling out nationwide, but a lack of tests remains a roadblock.

Houston attorney Troy Chandler is a big guy—6-foot-2 and 250 pounds—but on March 12 he felt as though he’d been hit by a truck. The first time he went to the emergency room at Houston Methodist Hospital, doctors “looked at … Read More

An apartment complex in Houston.

A Day in the Harris County Eviction Court

Harris County evictions increased dramatically from 2015 to 2016, and then remained higher from 2017 to 2019. No one knows why.

Each Wednesday, the wooden benches in the Harris County courtroom of Justice of the Peace Jeremy L. Brown fill with particularly tense people—most are landlords or lawyers bearing folders of unpaid bills. Meanwhile, defendants shift nervously in their seats, quietly … Read More