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Chilling content in case against Kansas City provider's hospital

A Kansas City woman suspected by a former co-worker of administering lethal doses of drugs to nine hospital patients is not named in a civil suit against the facility where the respiratory therapist worked. However, the mysterious deaths occurred between February and May of 2002 and ended abruptly after the therapist's firing.

The resurrected lawsuit concentrates on inactions by administrators of Hedrick Medical Center, now owned by Kansas City's St. Luke's Health System. Within the complaint is a statement by a physician who worked in the facility's emergency room at the time of the deaths, which he believed were caused by a deadly cocktail of insulin and muscle relaxers. The doctor's suspicions, based on unusual symptoms he witnessed and personal investigation, were shared with hospital officials and later local police.

The statement said the doctor unsuccessfully tried to convince hospital managers to investigate his claim that a staff member was "killing patients." A month after his initial worries, the doctor was rebuffed by the center's CEO, after saying he thought a particular therapist might have caused the patients' deaths. There was no internal investigation or video surveillance, as suggested by police.

The families of the patients who died under suspicious circumstances filed a wrongful death lawsuit that was initially rejected. An appeals court recently overturned another court's decision to deny the complaint because it was outside the statute of limitations.

The lawsuit asserts that hospital administrators failed to investigate a serious claim of patient harm and hid evidence that could damage the facility's reputation. The hospital allegedly prevented autopsies, ordered staff to remain quiet and passed off the deaths as "natural." The hospital plans to appeal. A criminal investigation also has been reopened.

Medical malpractice isn't always about something a doctor or hospital did. Damages awards can be based on the actions of other types of health care professionals.

Source: pitch.com, "A lawsuit claiming that a staffer at a Chillicothe hospital was killing patients presses on" Steve Vockrodt, Dec. 04, 2013

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