Cook County Jury Decides for Doctor in Wrongful Death Claim of Child

In 2007, Y.H., an 11-year-old child, was admitted to the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago. He was vomiting and had a history of propionic acidemia, an inborn metabolic disorder that causes acids to accumulate in the body and can lead to brain damage and heart problems.

Children with propionic acidemia may not survive to adulthood, but survival is varied. Y.H. was managed since infancy by a pediatric geneticist and was doing well as a fifth grader.

The defendant, 28-year-old Dr. Jain, was a third-year resident in pediatrics at the University of Illinois Medical Center when she first saw Y.H. She did a history, physically examined him and consulted with another pediatric geneticist to work out a plan of care.

On the morning of Feb. 19, 2007, Y.H. was doing better and was alert with stable vital signs. However, at 1 p.m., Y.H. complained of shortness of breath and was restless; the defendant pediatric geneticist was paged.

The vital signs on examination were within normal limits. Y.H. calmed down and the doctor’s impression was anxiety. The attending physician left the hospital to see patients at another clinic. Approximately 30 minutes later, Dr. Jain was again paged to the child’s room due to complaints of shortness of breath and agitated behavior.

A nurse at the hospital and several family members were present in the room at that time. At the trial, the witnesses testified that Dr. Jain insisted the child was merely anxious, despite the fact that he was pale, disorientated, had cool skin and was extremely distressed. The nurse on duty said Dr. Jain refused several requests to come to the patient’s room and charted that she had informed Dr. Jain that the child might be anxious, but that there was something else wrong.

When Y.H. was assisted to the bathroom, his IV leads and cardiac monitor were disconnected. Dr. Jain testified that she stayed with Y.H. and notified the attending physician. After about 20 minutes, the nurse called a code blue. The nurse noted in the hospital chart and testified at the trial that the child was pulseless and unresponsive. Dr. Jain cancelled the code blue, but the nurse ignored that order and recalled the code team to the room. Family members corroborated the nurse’s testimony. The code team eventually intubated Y.H. and transferred him into the pediatric intensive care unit where his blood acid levels were found to be extremely high — an indication of oxygen deficiency.

Y.H. was stabilized, but his acid levels increased the following afternoon and his heart function deteriorated. Although aggressive efforts to resuscitate were made, Y.H. died late in the evening on Feb. 20, 2007. An autopsy revealed chronic cardiac abnormalities and possible viral myocartitis.

The family of Y.H. filed this lawsuit against Dr. Jain maintaining that she chose not to appreciate a life-threatening condition of cardiogenic shock on the afternoon of Feb. 19, 2007 and chose not to notify the attending physician of the significant change in the child’s condition. It was also claimed that Dr. Jain chose to delay the resuscitative efforts and even prevented others from intervening to assist the child, which all led to lessening the chances of YH’s survival.

At the trial, the physician expert for the family testified that the child “decompensated” on the defendant’s watch, which led to his untimely death.

On the other hand, the defendant argued that she was a physician in training and practicing under the direction and supervision of an attending physician. Dr. Jain argued that she responded immediately when called, stayed with the child, continued to evaluate him and notified the attending physician of the situation. It was also maintained that Dr. Jain saw no need for intervention when a code team was called by the nurse because the child was breathing and had a pulse. The nurse, Dr. Jain said, mistakenly believed the child was pulseless because of a straight line on a cardiac monitor while the leads were disconnected.

In addition, the defendant argued that the child did not suffer any permanent injury as a result of the events on Feb. 19 and that his death could not have been prevented under any circumstance.

The jury agreed with arguments presented by the defendant and found in her favor. Before trial the demand to settle the case was $2,500,000, whereas there was no offer made by the defendant.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical malpractice cases, nursing home abuse matters and catastrophic injuries of all kinds for individuals and families for more than 36 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and its surrounding areas, including Elmwood Park, Calumet Park, Evergreen Park, Cicero, Park Ridge, Evanston, Hoffman Estates, Huntley, Aurora and Crete, Illinois.

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