A 86 year old woman who undergoes a surgical procedure might think, in the back of her mind, will I, at my age, survive the surgery? But, would she ever think, in her wildest nightmare, that she would survive the surgery, only to die from a fall from the operating table following the surgery?
Such is the case for the unfortunate Catherine O’Donnell, who died after suffering a fractured skull with severe internal bleeding in a fall in the operating room as she was being prepared for transfer from the operating table to her hospital bed. According to a joint pre-trial memorandum, after a surgical procedure to repair a fractured hip, O’Donnell, who was still under anesthesia, a breathing tube in her mouth, slipped and fell as hospital personnel prepared to transfer her to her hospital bed.
The wrongful death lawsuit against Boston Medical Center has just settled and the attached article discloses the amount of the settlement. That is not our focus in reporting these events to our readers. The article also indicates that, as a result of the lawsuit, the investigation by the family’s attorney, Andrew C. Meyer, Jr., and an investigation by the state Department of Public Health, "deficiencies in procedure" caused the fall and the fall caused the woman’s death. The hospital’s own, internal investigation found that operating room staff was busy and that the removal of Ms. O’Donnell’s safety belt was not communicated. Meyer, of the Boston law firm of Lubin & Meyer said:
“It’s gratifying to see that the family was able to receive exposure for this horrific event – and not to sweep it under the rug – to ensure that policies are changed so that this will not happen again."
This is the important feature of this litigation and all public interest litigation. Catherine O’Donnell’s death, although tragic, and the litigation that resulted from it, has increased public awareness of deficiencies in America’s operating rooms. It has also resulted in improved patient operating table-to-hospital bed transfer policies. The family received a measure of justice with the settlement and the cause of safety in the operating room has been advanced. This is an important victory for safety. Catherine’s death was not in vain. Family spokesman, Tom O’Donnell said:
“It’s comforting that in her memory we have a positive impact on patient safety.’’
Amen to that, Tom. Lawsuit Financial extends its profound sympathies to Catherine O’Donnel’s three children and her extended family. At the same time, we congratulate them on their legal victory, one that advances the cause of safety in Boston hospital rooms.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.