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Published On: Fri, Nov 17th, 2017

Texas Family Sues Emergency Room after 4-Year-Old’s Death

A Keller, Texas family is suing a local emergency room after their four-year-old died. The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit related to the 2016 incident.

In August 2016, Brian Steinborn found his four-year-old daughter Olivia in her bed with blue, cold skin and vomit on her face. Hours before, the couple had brought Olivia to the emergency room, run by Excel ER, with a fever.

The ER was less than a mile from their home. At the time, the child was alert, but her fever had reached 101 degrees. Her heart was beating rapidly and her breathing was abnormal.

photo by Carrie Z. via pixabay

Olivia’s vital signs were checked, and the ER ordered labs. She was given fluids and discharged home with an antibiotic prescription for an ear infection.

Five hours later, they returned to the hospital after her condition worsened. She was in full cardiopulmonary arrest when they arrived back at the ER.

According to the medical malpractice suit, it was too late to save the girl’s life. The suit claims the facility failed to evaluate the child properly and inappropriately discharged her instead of sending her to the hospital.

The autopsy report, performed by the Tarrant County medical examiner the day after her death, found that bacterial meningitis was the cause of the child’s death. Bacterial meningitis is a brain infection that can turn deadly in just a few hours.

Diagnosis errors are a growing and common problem in the medical industry. An estimated 7,000 people die in Texas each year due to medical malpractice. A recent survey showed that more than half of respondents who experienced a medical mistake said their providers told them nothing was wrong.

The attorneys in this family’s case say the issue is beyond a misdiagnosis. It raises concerns about Excel ER’s oversight and staffing.

Olivia was treated by a medical resident, a doctor still in training to become a board-certified ER specialist. The doctor should have been supervised by an attending physician, according to the lawsuit. The facility never told the child’s parents of the doctor’s status as a trainee.

The family is seeking over $1 million in damages.

The child’s symptoms should have been “obvious” to ER doctors, experts say. Some symptoms were clear red flags, including vomiting, fever, diarrhea within the last 24 hours. The abnormal breathing and rapid heart rate should have also been red flags, they say.

The child was also deaf and wore an ear implant, which made her more susceptible to meningitis. Her blood work showed abnormal white and platelet counts, which indicates a bacterial infection.

Some experts say lack of emergency physicians is a major problem in Texas. In the Lone Star State, physicians who have completed at least one year of residency can apply to legally work in a Texas emergency room. They are not required to be an emergency medicine specialist.

Excel ER currently operates six facilities in Texas, but the one where Olivia was treated is now closed. It is unclear whether the doctor who treated her is still working with the group.

Author: Jacob Maslow

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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