Kaiser Accused of Trying to Hasten Boy's Death

     SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) - A disabled boy's parents claim in Orange County court that Kaiser improperly put him in hospice care and prescribed unnecessary sedatives to hasten his death.
     On behalf of themselves and their son, Evan Maltese, Michael Alan Maltese and Rowena Javier Maltese sued Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, and Southern Permanente Medical Group, in Orange County Superior Court. They claim discrimination under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, intentional and negligent misrepresentation, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, medical negligence and battery.
     According to Michael and Rowena Maltese's lawsuit, Evan was born with 2-hydroxyglutaric aciduria, a genetic condition that causes physical and mental disabilities, which Kaiser knew about as early as January 2007. Further testing confirmed the type in March 2007, according to the complaint.
     Evan is not even 8-years-old at the time of the filing, according to the complaint, whose timeline indicates he would have been an infant at the time of the diagnosis.
     In April 2007, "defendants intentionally and inappropriately prescribed Evan Maltese morphene sulfate, a powerful vasodepressive drug, as well as lorazepam and phenobarbital," the complaint states.
     "The use of the above-referenced compounds had no therapeutic intent or benefit for Evan Maltese. On information and belief, the above-referenced drugs were knowingly and intentionally used by defendants upon Evan Maltese in order to hasten his death," it states.
     Kaiser's motive was "the fact Evan Maltese suffered from a physical and/or mental disability, not actual medical need," according to the complaint.
     Although Kaiser represented that it was committed to providing Evan with the highest quality care available and that the treatment provided was medically necessary and not intended to hasten his death, "indeed the course of treatment selected by defendants was motivated by concerns that defendants would be required to expend vast sums to provide care for Evan Maltese if he survived," the Malteses allege.
     The Malteses accuse Kaiser of improperly relegating Evan Maltese to hospice care and instructing Michael Alan Maltese and Rowena Javier Maltese to inject Evan Maltese with morphine at home, as part of his hospice care plan. Hospice care would indicate that Kaiser had given up seeking a cure for Evan or prolonging his life.
     Morphine has a high risk for severe, possibly fatal, breathing problems, which risk is higher if you use the wrong dose/strength, or if you use it along with other drugs that might also affect breathing, according to the medical information website WebMD.
     Lorazepam injections are used to increase drowsiness before surgery and alleviate anxiety, among other things, and phenobarbital is used to help alleviate anxiety and help with sleep, according to WebMD.
     "On or about July 28, 2008, as a result of injections prescribed as part of defendants' inappropriate hospice care plan, Evan Maltese suffered a severe hypoxic episode, requiring emergent medical treatment and causing him permanent brain damage."
     Michael and Rowena Maltese suffered "mental distress, mental suffering, mental anguish, unpleasant mental reactions such as fright, nervousness, grief, anxiety, worry, shocking [sic], humiliation, and indignity as well as physical pain . . . of such substantial quantity and enduring quality that no reasonable person should have been expected to endure it," the complaint states.
     Kaiser subjected Evan to "harmful and unlawful touchings. Those touchings were such that any reasonable person would have been offended as a result, according to the complaint. He "suffered permanent, devastating harm as a proximate result of the touching. As a further proximate result of the acts of the defendants, and each of them, plaintiff Evan Maltese sustained severe emotional disturbance, shock, and injury," the complaint states.
     "Plaintiffs only discovered the fraudulent conduct alleged in this cause of action upon reading the Hospice Admission Report for Evan Maltese for the first time in April 2012," their complaint states.
     The Maltese family seeks general and special damages, medical costs, attorneys' fees, pre-judgment interest, costs of suit and loss of earning capacity. They are represented by Daniel M. Hodes of Hodes Milman Liebeck in Irvine.