Medical procedure leaves man in vegetative state

David Yates Jun. 7, 2007, 7:00am

Clay Dugas

Needing an upgrade to his heart device, Joseph Roberts was admitted to Memorial Hermann Baptist Hospital. However, a complication during the procedure left him in a vegetative state. Roberts died a few weeks later.

Blaming the hospital for her husband's death, Patsy Roberts, along with her adult son Quinton, filed a medical-malpractice lawsuit against Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas, Memorial Hermann and Dr. Wayne Margolis.

The plaintiffs' petition states that Joseph Roberts was admitted to Memorial Hermann Baptist Hospital, Beaumont, on Nov. 21, 2005, for an upgrade in his cardiac rhythm device from an AICD to an AICD with biventricular pacing capability by Dr. Margolis, the patient's cardiologist, who also performed the procedure.

According to the operative report, the patient was pre-medicated with Benadryl 50mg, Fentanyl 50 mg and Versed 2 mg IV. "The patient was given additional intra-operative doses of Fentanyl 150 mg and Versed 8.0 mg for restlessness."

"Suddenly, the patient became apneic and hypoxemic," the report said. "Respiratory management was performed with a bag-valve mask device. Romazicon and Narcan were administered to attempt reversal of sedation. Because of poor airway control, anesthesiology was summoned to intubate the patient. Thereafter, the patient developed pulseless electrical activity. CPR was initiated, and additional medications were given including atropine 0.5mg and epinephrine '2 amps' to re-establish heart rate and blood pressure. The procedure was then continued to completion."

Roberts was then transferred to intensive care, where he was found to have anoxic encephalopathy, opening his eyes but not following commands, the suit said. "On Nov. 26, 2005, the patient was extubated but remained in a vegetative state. The patient was transferred to Continue CARE Hospital of Southeast Texas on Dec. 5, 2005, and remained there until he ultimately died on Dec. 11, 2005."

The plaintiffs' suit faults the defendants with negligence, gross negligence and malice.

"Roberts continuously suffered gross abuse, extensive neglect and undue pain," the suit said. "His basic needs were ignored and his dignity was disregarded."

The suit goes on to say, throughout his admission to the hospital, the nursing staff violated nursing standards by failing to assess Roberts's physical condition and by failing to provide adequate documentation of serious incidents as a means of communicating important information to all care-giving nurses.

The family is suing for Robert's death, loss of consortium, society, affection; grief; bereavement; physical pain and suffering and mental anguish in the past by Roberts until he died; medical expenses incurred; funeral and burial expenses; pre-Judgment and post-judgment interests; and exemplary damages.

The plaintiffs are demanding a trial by jury, and are represented by attorney Clay Dugas of Clay Dugas & Associates.

Judge Bob Wortham, 58th Judicial District, has been assigned to the case.

Case No A179-437

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