Let's begin here. "The Short Life and Lonely Death of Sabrina Seelig" as reported by Anemona Hartocollis for the NYTimes reads as a cautionary tale: don't take Ephedra; make sure your jury relates to the story of your dead client; be aware of struggling hospitals, and so on.
What happened? A 22 year old college student took Ephedra to stay up all night to complete a paper. Feeling ill in the morning she called 911, an ambulance was dispatched, she was taken to a struggling Brooklyn hospital where she was given sedatives, strapped to a bed, slipped into a coma that evening unattended by the hospital staff and died 6 days after admission.
Her lawyer lost her case for any number of reasons. I was not there nor part of the trial team. I do not know. What is reported is that there was (as there will always be) conflicting testimony, an uneven balance in the gaggle of experts, blame on the plaintiff for bringing about her own death, and juror distancing:
"After a day and a half of deliberations, the jury of four men and two women returned its verdict: Wyckoff and the individuals working there had not been negligent.
The jury did not seem to identify with Ms. Seelig."
As I have written and spoken before, the decision-maker must have some connection to your client. The decision-maker does not need to have lost a sister or daughter or loved one to death. The decision-maker does not need to have experience with medical malpractice. But that decision-maker must be reminded of the values of safety, trust, and vulnerability, taught the medical rules including the simple four-step process of differential diagnosis, as well as the hospital rules of charting, monitoring, and vital signs.
So often these cases turn on the inevitability of the outcome. Apparently, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center was just the place. Excerpt.
"In 2007, when Ms. Seelig was a patient, the state ordered Wyckoff to hire a management consultant to improve its governance and finances. Five years later, it is still struggling. The Brooklyn district attorney has been investigating allegations of mismanagement. A three-month investigation by The New York Times, the results of which were published in March, found a history of insider dealing and positions being given to people with political ties. The hospital officials involved denied any wrongdoing. The hospital does not carry malpractice insurance."
One thing is for sure: if we have not yet gone to an emergency room or a hospital for treatment, we know someone who has. One day we will most certainly be there ourselves.
Here's the rule: Do not go to any hospital alone. If you must, let someone know where you are going and when and why.
Several years ago I created a website for Vincent DeAngelo, an accomplished, highly-regarded medical malpractice attorney in Hartford, CT. Mr. DeAngelo insisted that his website provide critical information to the public in five areas of potential medical malpractice: Vbacs, emergency rooms, medication errors, hospital infections, and nursing homes.
Click here to access DeAngelo's educational website complete with detailed downloadable pdfs you can read to learn more about these areas and information to take with you before going to the hospital.
Our moms were right when they told us not to go swimming alone. From the grave Sabrina Seelig is reminding us not to go to the hospital alone.