Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Friday, November 11, 2005

A contemptible defense



The management of the hospital where Lisa died after her blood sugar was allowed to fall to almost zero has a simple explanation for the devastating injuries she received that night.

It was all her own fault.

Not the doctors. And not the overnight nurse, who, according to the hospital’s own records, didn’t do a follow-up blood test, even though she knew or should have known that Lisa’s blood sugar had dipped to an unsafe level just two hours before she came on duty.

No, it was all the fault of the patient. In a written response to a lawsuit filed earlier this year, the lawyers representing Troy’s Samaritan Hospital don’t deny that Lisa was injured. But they claim that she, not the nurses or doctors, are responsible for the terrible injuries she received while a patient in their care.

In what is known as an affirmative defense, the legal document says:
“The injuries and damages described in Plaintiff’s (lawsuit) were caused in whole or in part by the contributory negligence, lack of ordinary care, assumption of the risk and /or culpable conduct of the plaintiff and without any negligence or careless on the part of Samaritan Hospital of Troy New York or Northeast Health.”

Got it. First Lisa neglected to do a routine second test of her own blood-sugar level after the first insulin reaction, as the hospital’s own protocol requires. Then maybe she jumped out of her bed, and although blind, inserted an IV in herself and started the insulin drip that a note in the record suggests was running, which, in the space of three hours, left her on life support and near death.

Sure. That makes sense. Happens every day.

At least it does in the minds of medical providers who just can’t admit ever making a mistake. And according to lawyers like Kathleen Ryan who, acting on behalf of the hospital, are happy to defend them with contemptible claims like this one.