Family awarded $675,000 in GBMC patient's death

October 07, 2006|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,sun reporter

A Baltimore County jury awarded $675,000 yesterday to the adult children of a woman who died at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center after a nurse failed to summon a doctor for 11 minutes when the patient had stopped breathing and her blood pressure was skyrocketing, a lawyer who represented the plaintiffs said.

Audrey Smith, 59, of Parkville, a housekeeping worker at GBMC, went to the hospital in March 2003 for elective, outpatient knee surgery, according to attorney Briggs Bedigian, who tried the case with Gary Wais.

The surgery went well, and Smith was transferred to a recovery room, where her blood pressure began to rise, Bedigian said.

The lawyer offered this account, based on testimony from this week's trial: At 11:07 a.m., Smith was not breathing and her blood pressure was rising steadily. At 11:15 a.m., nurse Kathleen M. Henn administered a drug that caused the patient's blood pressure to further rise. And three minutes later, at 11:18 a.m., the nurse paged a doctor.

"The physician responded immediately and tried to save her, but she was already gone," Bedigian said. "Her brain swelled and crushed against her skull."

Officials at GBMC declined to comment on the particulars of the case. In a written statement, spokesman Michael Schwartzberg said, "We extend our sympathies to the Smith family for the loss of their loved one. GBMC continually strives to ensure that medical care and service of the highest quality is delivered to our patients."

The brain swelling left Smith in a vegetative state. Her children removed her from life support after two days to honor their mother's request to donate her organs, Bedigian said.

"The nurse tried to handle the emergency on her own and breached the standard of care and, as a result, a 59-year-old woman who was supposed to walk out of the hospital that day died," he said.

The money awarded by the jury after about two hours of deliberations will be divided equally among Smith's three children. They are Jermaine Smith, 27, of Parkville; Monica Milborne, in her 30s, of Baltimore; and Michele Donaldson, 37, of Baltimore, according to the attorney.

jennifer.mcmenamin @baltsun.com

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