HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Friday, September 15, 2006

ER Homicide

CNN.Com and other news sources report that a corner's jury found that the death of a heart attack patient who waited approximately two hours in a hospital waiting room was a homicide.  According to CNN,

Beatrice Vance, 49, died of a heart attack, but the jury at a coroner's inquest ruled Thursday that her death also was "a result of gross deviations from the standard of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in this situation."

A spokeswoman for Vista Medical Center in Waukegan, where Vance died July 29, declined to comment on the ruling. (Jury's findingsexternal link)

Vance had waited almost two hours for a doctor to see her after complaining of classic heart attack symptoms -- nausea, shortness of breath and chest pains, Deputy Coroner Robert Barrett testified.

She was seen by a triage nurse about 15 minutes after she arrived, and the nurse classified her condition as "semi-emergent," Barrett said. He said Vance's daughter twice asked nurses after that when her mother would see a doctor.

When her name was finally called, a nurse found Vance slumped unconscious in a waiting room chair without a pulse. Barrett said. She was pronounced dead shortly afterward.

Barrett said he subpoenaed records after finding discrepancies in the hospital's version of events.

It wasn't immediately clear if the ruling would lead to criminal charges. Dan Shanes, a chief of felony review for the state attorney's office, said his division needed to review the case.

I have heard some radio reports as well but not too many more details.  I haven't heard of this happening before - it is very tragic.

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