Chicago Emergency Room Error Leads to Child’s Death – Cook County Verdict of $3.66 Million Thomas v. Advocate Trinity Hospital

Typically, when a patient is placed on an oxygen ventilator it is because they are unable to get adequate oxygen on their own. Therefore, when patients are placed on a ventilator, it is important for hospital staff to appropriately monitor the ventilated patient. In the Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit of Iris Thomas v. Advocate Trinity Hospital, 07 L 8318, the hospital staff failed to maintain adequate ventilation in the decedent, a medical error that led to his death.

The case facts in Thomas involved two year-old Justin Pettway. While at home, the infant Pettway suffered a seizure, after which he was rushed by his family to Trinity Hospital’s emergency room. The emergency room staff seemed to respond quickly to the medical emergency, placing Pettway on anti-seizure medication and intubating him. He was even placed on multiple monitors to assess his pulse and heart rate.

In addition, the hospital began taking measures to try and assess what had caused Pettway’s seizure. The infant was transported to the radiology department for a CT scan of his brain. However, it was during this process that the medical error occurred. At some point after returning to the emergency department from the radiology department, Pettway was found to be unresponsive. The monitors showed no heart rate and the resuscitation efforts were started too late to save the little boy. He died of cardiac arrest.

The decedent’s grandmother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Trinity Hospital’s emergency department, alleging that the ER staff had failed to adequately monitor the toddler. Specifically, the medical malpractice complaint alleged that the emergency department staff discontinued the use of the heart and pulse monitors after he left the emergency department for his CT scan and then delayed reconnecting the monitors upon his return.

Hospitals should have specific policies and procedures in place that set out what sort of monitoring is required in medical emergencies. Likewise, there are detailed policies regarding the proper transport of patients on ventilators. Yet one of the allegations in the Thomas lawsuit was that his ventilator tube became dislodged while he was in the radiology department and no one noticed.

In such cases where the main allegations revolve around a medical staff’s failure to recognize a medical emergency was occurring, it is sometimes difficult to prove precisely because no one noticed it. When reconstructing a medical malpractice timeline, lawyers typically rely on nursing and physicians’ notes in the patient’s chart. However, if the nurses and physicians did not notice something then it is highly unlikely that there would be any documentation of that event in the medical chart.

However, in this wrongful death lawsuit, the decedent’s estate was presumably able to persuade the jury of its position that the hospital staff at Trinity Hospital failed to identify the decedent’s respiratory insufficiency and cardiac distress in a timely manner, the resulted in his subsequent death. The jury awarded #3.66 million to the infant’s parents and five surviving siblings and found the defendant hospital guilty of negligence.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois wrongful death lawsuits for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and surrounding areas, including Glenview, Harvey, Cicero, Orland Park, and Palatine.

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