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Judge Dismisses Some, Not All, Claims in Malpractice Lawsuit

Some of the civil claims in OMC medical malpractice lawsuit are dismissed, others are upheld.

Clallam County Superior Court Judge Brent Basden dismissed some civil claims in a medical malpractice lawsuit over the death of a 99-year-old woman in 2017 who was allegedly declared dead at Olympic Medical Center (OMC) before she died.  However, Basden said, “Expert testimony is necessary to establish the standard of care on declaring death,” and if the attorneys cannot settle out of court, they will go to trial.

Basden determined that too much key information was still unknown on the day Catherine Leona Delo was declared deceased to dismiss the wrongful death claim.  He has ordered attorneys for OMC and Evelyn Galland, Delo’s daughter, to present a list of witnesses and for a May 17 civil trial.   At the hearing, he also rejected OMC’s motion for summary judgment.

Basden tossed a corporate negligence claim, dismissed a wrongful death claim against nurse Karen Tyler, and dismissed negligent infliction of emotional distress claims against OMC, Dr. Yiragalem Tiruneh and nine other defendants who were not named.  He also dismissed failure-to-document and wrongful death claims against Tyler.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Unsplash

“There is a genuine issue of material fact in dispute on whether Ms. Delo was deceased when her death was declared on Feb. 15, 2017,” Basden ruled.  He added, “Further exploration is needed on whether OMC followed the standard of care.”

Galland said her mother’s broken nose and bloody bed sheets prove she was alive up to two days after she was declared dead.  Her compliant reads, “Death is the cessation of life; the ceasing to exist; defined by physicians as a total stoppage of the circulation of the blood and a cessation of the animal and vital functions consequent thereon, such as respiration, pulsation, etc.”

Delo’s daughter also claimed her mother was denied fluids and oxygen, stating, “It is my belief that defendant took her off fluids and oxygen to speed her death.  That is a horrific thing to do.  I have continuing nightmares about her treatment at OMC and both myself and my mother being trapped.” She added, “When I learned that the mortuary found my mother blood-soaked, and with a broken nose, I was shocked and worried that my mother had suffered what would be unimagined fear and pain.  Dead people don’t bleed in quantity.  I have had not only the nightmares [described] above but have been embroiled with anxiety thinking about how my mother suffered as a result of her being declared dead when she was still alive.”

OMC, she said, did not follow its policy of having two nurses confirm death.  The complaint reads, “Agents of Olympic Medical Center negligently handled Ms. Delos, breaking her nose and damaging her eye socket.  Ms. Delo was trapped in the body bag long enough for her to push and hit the bag in an attempt to get out, thus bruising her hand.”

In its motion for summary judgment, OMC indicated forensic pathologist determined the patient died from arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease, and he “found that no traumatic injury including the injury to her nose contributed to her death and that her nose and eye injuries could have occurred postmortem.”

Sources:

Malpractice lawsuit to weigh life and death

Lawsuit: Woman placed in body bag before death

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