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Family of girl declared brain dead is suing hospital

Back in December of 2013, the story of a teenage girl who wound up brain dead after a tonsillectomy was all over the news. What might typically be thought of as a routine surgery wound up being anything but.

We did a post on the matter at the time, offering the view that an option for families in such a situation might be in seeking compensation for the alleged negligence of medical staff. Earlier this month, that reportedly is what this child’s family decided to do.

As is always the case, the filing of a personal injury suit can’t do anything to change the situation that the patient and her family face. But an attorney for the mother suggests that the suit offers the prospect, among other things, of holding the hospital accountable for what she sees as a failure on the part of officials to explain what happened.

The suit alleges that the surgeon’s actions were not consistent with the standard of care expected for the patient’s condition. She was being treated to correct sleep apnea and the suit says the doctor performed procedures that included the removal of tonsils, adenoids, soft pallet and uvula. In addition, he did some work on the inside of her nose.

The doctor allegedly noted that a malformed carotid artery in the patient might pose a risk of bleeding after the operation, but he apparently never told the hospital nursing staff about that.

That night, after the surgery, the suit says the family was visiting the girl when she began to spit up pints of blood. Nurses couldn’t agree on what steps to take. And despite calls for a doctor, one didn’t show up for more than four hours. By that time, the girl had suffered cardiac arrest. And despite resuscitation efforts, she was declared brain dead.

A court battle followed in which the hospital sought to have the girl removed from life support. Today, she is at a facility in New Jersey. Her family says she responds to some basic commands.

When claims of judgment error and deviation from care standards can be shown, a case for compensation may be possible. In this case, the family is seeking unspecified damages for personal injury, negligent infliction of distress and wrongful death.