Chicago Woman Dies After Doctors Ignore Warning Signs of Respiratory Distress – $3.75 Million Settlement Reached in Rupright v. Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

Second chances are rare in medicine. Oftentimes doctors and nurses have one chance to get something right, which means that medical providers need to monitor patients’ reactions to different treatment modalities. When they see something that is not right, medical providers need to pick up on the warning signs and correct the problem because chances are they will only get one chance to do so.

However, in the case of Kerry Rupright, doctors missed their chance to prevent Kerry’s permanent brain injury from happening. They missed the signs that should have alerted them that she was not reacting well to her various medications, instead opting to continue her treatment plan. The medical malpractice lawsuit of Estate of Kerry Rupright v. Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, et al., 05 L 9451, was filed in an effort to hold these doctors accountable for their lack of vigilance in monitoring Kerry’s condition.

Kerry presented to Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago for treatment of her transverse myelitis, which is inflammation across one section of the spinal cord. Transverse myelitis is extremely painful, so Kerry was prescribed pain medications as part of her treatment plan. Specifically, Kerry was given a pain relief patch that contained Duragesic and Fentanyl, which can cause respiratory distress when taken with other medications.

During the course of her treatment at the Rehab Institute, Kerry actually did suffer from respiratory arrest. Fortunately, she did recover. Unfortunately, her doctors chose to ignore the warning signs that Kerry was susceptible to respiratory arrest – the physicians not only continued her pain patch, but prescribed additional medications that were known to cause respiratory distress in patients taking Duragesic and Fentanyl.

The following day Kerry again suffered from respiratory arrest. However, this time she did not recover and instead suffered a severe brain injury and required supportive measures to keep her alive. Due to the severity of her condition, physicians at the Rehab Institute transferred Kerry to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for further care and treatment. However, it was the Rehab Institute physicians’ poor choices and decision to ignore the obvious warning signs that Kerry was prone to respiratory distress that necessitated the transfer.

Despite the best efforts of the physicians at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Kerry did not improve. After doctors realized that there was no hope for Kerry to recover, her family made the decision to withdraw life support. The twenty-eight year-old Kerry was survived by her husband and two small children.

Kerry’s husband elected to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the Rehab Institute and its doctors for their negligence in prescribing Kerry the pain patch in combination with the other pain medications. The complaint alleged that the physicians should have known that this placed Kerry at a high risk for respiratory distress.

Rather than going to trial, the defense elected to settle for $3.75 million: $1.5 million of the settlement was paid by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago’s self-insured policy, with the additional $2.25 million being paid out of the Rehab Institute’s excess insurance policy. The settlement will go to the surviving family members, including Kerry’s husband and two children.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois misdiagnosis lawsuits for over 35 years, serving individuals and families in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Oak Lawn, Oak Forest, Orland Park, Burr Ridge, and Cicero.

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