Cook County Surgical Error and Subsequent Overmedication Leads to Illinois Woman’s Death – $1.35 Million Settlement Reached in Markbreit v. Velasco

A Cook County wrongful death lawsuit involving the death of a 45 year-old woman was settled by the decedent’s estate for $1.35 million. The Illinois lawsuit dealt with claims of medical negligence on behalf of the defendant surgeon and the hospital where he as employed. Jerry Markbreit for the Estate of Betsy Markbreit v. Jose Velasco, M.D., et al., 07 L 8703.

The Illinois surgical malpractice began in 2004, when Ms. Markbreit was admitted to Rush North Shore Medical Center to have a benign growth on her thyroid gland. Prior testing had indicated that the benign growth was limited to the right side of Ms. Markbriet’s thyroid gland, a finding that was confirmed on the surgical report. Yet the surgeon, Dr. Jose Velasco, elected to perform a total thyroidectomy on the decedent.

The Cook County medical malpractice claim was critical of the surgeon’s decision to perform a total thyroidectomy. Ms. Markbreit had only been scheduled for a partial thyroidectomy and given the fact that her benign growth was isolated to one side of her thyroid gland there was no medical reason to perform a total thyroidectomy. This lack of medical necessity was significant because the plaintiff’s wrongful death lawsuit traced all of Ms. Markbreit’s subsequent medical problems and eventual death back to the unnecessary total thyroidectomy.

The first sign of trouble appeared shortly after the thyroid surgery when Ms. Markbreit began to experience trouble breathing. She was readmitted to Rush North Shore, where she underwent an emergency intubation due to her high levels of respiratory distress. Further testing during this hospital admission revealed that the total thyroidectomy had caused almost total paralysis of her vocal cords.

Ms. Markbreit continued to live with her compromised breathing for another two years. Her vocal cords never recovered, leaving her with severe respiratory problems. Ms. Markbreit’s difficulty breathing eventually escalated to the point that she needed to undergo a tracheostomy procedure to allow her to breathe with the aid of a ventilator.

However, because the use of a ventilator and tracheostomy do not necessarily replicate normal breathing functions, their use often produces a level of anxiety among respiratory compromised patients. Such was the case with Ms. Markbreit; in order to reduce her anxiety and increase the efficiency of her ventilator, the physicians at Rush North Shore prescribed her various narcotic medications.

The logic was that by prescribing Ms. Markbreit Xanax and Vicodin, her anxiety would lessen and she would relax enough to be able to breathe safely with the use of the ventilator. However, the physicians at Rush North Shore ended up overmedicating Ms. Markbriet. Her Illinois wrongful death lawsuit alleged that the hospital overprescribed both Xanax and Vicodin, which caused the decedent to go into respiratory arrest and die.

The decedent was survived by her father, Jerry Markbreit, who brought the Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit against the surgeon for his negligence in performing the total thyroidectomy in 2004 and against the hospital for overprescribing various medications in 2006. Both defendants reached a settlement with Ms. Markbreit’s estate for a total of $1.35 million.

Chicago’s Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois surgical malpractice cases and Cook County wrongful death matters for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Prospect Heights, Orland Park, Mount Prospect, Park Forest, and Schaumburg.

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