Complaint says misdiagnosis led to bathtub death

December 30, 1992|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

A 45-year-old Halethorpe woman drowned in her bathtub last year because an emergency room doctor misdiagnosed the source of her abdominal pain, a lawyer for the woman's estate says in a complaint filed yesterday with the state's health claims arbitration board.

Sandra Ann Wright should have been admitted for treatment for an abdominal abscess -- and not sent home with a prescription for antibiotics to combat a urinary tract infection -- after being examined and tested Dec. 20, 1991, at St. Agnes Hospital, the complaint states.

To ease her pain, the woman sat in a bathtub the next day, but was "overwhelmed by the toxicity of the infection," lost consciousness and slipped under the water, said the complaint, which states the woman was found submerged and not breathing by her mother.

An autopsy report showed Ms. Wright, a divorced mother of one who worked as a stockbroker and lived in the 5700 block of First Ave., died of drowning and gastrointestinal bleeding and infection, according to documents submitted by Marvin Ellin, a Baltimore medical malpractice lawyer representing the woman's estate.

Mr. Ellin also submitted a letter from a surgeon stating that his review of the case showed the treatment received by Ms. Wright did not meet accepted standards of medical care. Dr. W. Stuart Battle wrote that if the patient had been hospitalized, the abscess would likely have been diagnosed and treated.

Blood tests conducted in the emergency room showed Ms. Wright, who had a temperature of 101.2 degrees, had an elevated white-blood cell count, the complaint states.

In another document submitted by Mr. Ellin, Dr. Ljubisa Jovan Dragovic, a forensic pathologist, wrote that Ms. Wright drowned as a result of the toxic effects of her infection.

The complaint, filed on behalf of Geraldine T. Emrich, the personal representative of Ms. Wright's estate, names as defendants St. Agnes Hospital, Dr. John R. Pyles and Barone Emergency Physicians. Attempts to reach Dr. Pyles for comment were unsuccessful; the phone number listed for Barone Emergency Physicians has been disconnected.

George Moniodis, public relations director for St. Agnes, confirmed that Ms. Wright had been a patient there but said hospital officials could not comment on the complaint because they had not yet seen it.

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