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Kaiser Blamed for Teen’s Appendicitis Death

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - A teenage girl should not have died from appendicitis while in the care of Kaiser hospital doctors, the girl's younger sister claims in federal court in Alameda County.

Shukriyyah Charles, 17, showed up at the Kaiser Vallejo Hospital emergency room on Aug. 31, 2003, complaining of severe abdominal pain, generalized body pain, chills, fever, inability to urinate and inability to defecate, according to maternal half-sister Samira Johnson who was only 10 years old at the time.

Charles underwent an emergency appendectomy, performed by co-defendants Doctors Lee Griffith and Bradley Holden, but only after several hours sitting in the facility's waiting room, according to the complaint.

After the surgery, Charles was placed in the hospital's Intensive Care Unit, in critical condition. An untimely transfer from Vallejo to the Kaiser hospital in Oakland caused her condition to deteriorate further, according to the complaint.

Johnson, however, claims doctors knew her sister would die en route to Oakland and wanted it to happen. According to the complaint, Charles "experienced something that caused her to become unconscious and unable to be aroused" while at the Vallejo hospital.

According to online sources, a ruptured appendix requires quick medical response due to the possibility of peritonitis, or an infection in the abdominal cavity, which can be life threatening. It can also spread bacteria, causing an infection in the blood stream.

Johnson alleges the reason for her sister's transfer to Oakland was "that the decedent's physicians at Kaiser Vallejo knew that there was a high likelihood that the decedent had suffered grave injuries from which she might never recover and that she might need around the clock medical care for the rest of her life, and that by transporting decedent to another hospital, the stress of transport might cause Ms. Charles to die, and thus, the decedent would not die at Kaiser Vallejo where her death would be a professional embarrassment to defendants," the complaint states.

Making matters even worse, the equipment used to monitor her heart and vital signs stopped working as Charles, who was not part of the Kaiser system and a Medi-Cal participant, was being taken from the ambulance inside the Oakland hospital.

During the transfer, the complaint states, defendants "negligently and carelessly failed to provide the necessary medical equipment in working order to monitor the decedent's condition and to care for the decedent during her transportation such that her critically ill condition was caused to become worse."

Hospital doctors performed another emergency operation, but Charles died on the operating room table.

Johnson includes several doctors as defendants in her complaint, as well as unidentified manufacturers of the monitoring equipment that quit working during her transfer inside the Oakland hospital.

Aside from claims of wrongful death, medical malpractice and negligence, Johnson is also claiming fraud, alleging the hospital was obligated to provide her sister's health insurance representative with full and prompt disclosure of the "nature and cause of her incapacity." Johnson says that did not happen.

The statute of limitations for medical malpractice/negligence was tolled while Johnson was still a minor, but began running when she turned 18 on Nov. 17, 2011.

Kelly Snider is representing Johnson.

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