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Thursday, July 11, 2024 | Back issues
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Kaiser Gave Tylenol|to Dying Mom, Family Says

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (CN) - While her husband and two daughters pleaded for help, a hospitalized woman's condition deteriorated, leading to her death from an untreated brain infection, her family claims in a complaint filed in San Bernardino County Superior Court.

During her five days at Kaiser Fontana Hospital, Maria Del Pilar Rodriguez spoke in gibberish, vomited, and screamed and moaned in pain while "her eyes seemed to be 'popping' from her head," according to the complaint. Her husband "could see that his wife was in need of medical assistance and asked over and over again the doctors and nurses for help but they ignored his requests," the complaint states. "Decedent was also bleeding from her ear and unable to communicate," the complaint continues.

Although Maria's family expressed concern that "something more than an ear infection was going on," she might have meningitis, she needed an MRI, and she may not survive the night, an MRI was not performed, according to the complaint.

"Decedent complained of unrelenting, severe pain and the doctor told the decedent that she better stop complaining or they would do a lumbar puncture on her, which would hurt," the complaint states. A nurse told Maria, "that she was 'fighting' the pain medication and that she needed to calm down," and told one of her daughters that "her babbling was due to the medication," the complaint states, and then goes on to say, that "defendants withheld narcotics and only allowed her to have Tylenol despite the fact that decedent was screaming and crying out in pain."

The complaint states that, after Maria's husband was told that she would be discharged from the hospital, she "began screaming in pain and in response, the plaintiff told the nurse that he wanted the nurse to call the doctor. The doctor called the decedent's room and spoke with plaintiff. Plaintiff told the doctor that his wife was screaming in pain, that she was getting worse, that her eyes seemed to be 'popping' from her head, that she was speaking gibberish. He asked the doctor if he would come in to see her and to order an MRI. The doctor responded that he would not come in but would see her at morning rounds the next morning and would decide then about an MRI. Plaintiff responded by asking the doctor what if she does not survive to the next morning. Plaintiff said these things because he was afraid that if steps were not immediately taken to investigate why her condition was worsening and have brain imaging, that she might die. The doctor did not come in and the MRI was not ordered. In fact, the decedent decompensated early in the next morning before the doctor arrived and died from an untreated brain infection."

The complaint states that before Maria died, her daughter "was at decedent's bedside as she was waking up, complaining of severe pain and then drifting back into unconsciousness. The nurse was aware of this. Then, decedent started making unusual sounds and was lying in a strange position, then she urinated on herself and started making gurgling sounds. Plaintiff tried to wake up her mother but was unable to do so and then she ran for assistance from the nurse. The nurse ignored her concerns at first and said she 'would be there in a minute,' and did not treat her concerns as urgent or emergent. When the nurse eventually came into the room and tried to wake up the decedent, the nurse finally acted like there was an emergency and only then called for assistance from others."

The family is suing for wrongful death, medical malpractice, dependent adult abuse, fraud, violation of patient bill of rights, failure to obtain informed consent, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.They are represented by Philip Michels and Shirley K. Watkins of Michels & Watkins in Los Angeles, with Steven B. Stevens of counsel.

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