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Report: Hospital negligence led to death

December 4, 2008 8:06:56 AM PST
A disturbing case of apparent neglect led to the death of a woman in a local hospital. Now there are new developments that place the blame squarely on county employees at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Medical Center.The County of Los Angeles is gathering evidence to battle a major lawsuit. The family of Edith Rodriguez accuses medical staff of egregious and reckless conduct. A court document that was leaked indicates they may be right.

For an hour, Edith Rodriguez pleaded for help at the King-Harbor emergency room. She never got it. A new revelation about her death affirms what her family has claimed from the start.

And now a private risk-assessment company hired by the county agrees. The Los Angeles Times published an excerpt from a court document before it was sealed.

According to Sedgwick Claims Management: "[Rodriguez] could have been saved, at least in the early part of her detention. ... This is a case of medical negligence ... by medical staff."

Hospital surveillance tape obtained by the L.A. Times shows Rodriguez's ordeal. She fell out of a wheelchair as she waited. No one noticed.

But her troubles actually began days earlier. The hospital treated her for gallstones and released her. Turns out, her agony was not her gall bladder. It was a perforated bowel, which could have been treated.

Eddie Sanchez is among several siblings suing the county. They are demanding $45 million: one million for each minute Rodriguez was ignored.

As the case nears trial, defendants are being deposed. One described the emergency room as understaffed, in chaos. Thirty-four patients admitted, even though there were only 27 spaces. To the dismay of the family, the triage nurse says she never saw their sister in distress until she was beyond reviving.

Also named in the lawsuit are the county police who were present in the emergency room and the Sheriff's department, which dismissed 911 calls for help.

A trial is set for March 10.


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