Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Alzheimer's sufferer claims injuries

Lawsuit alleges negligence and
fraud for injuries at adult home

By David Baker
Posted Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The operators of an assisted living facility in Guilderland are facing a lawsuit filed on behalf of a woman with Alzheimer’s disease who allegedly suffered serious injuries when she fell twice in four months.

The suit alleges that the Terrace at Beverwyck and its owners, Northeast Health Inc. were negligence in allowing Kathlyn Mellen to fall in October 2004 and again in February 2005.

As a result of these falls, the suit says, Mellen, who was 90 years old at the time, suffered severe personal injuries. She is no longer a resident at the home.

According to legal papers, Mellen moved into the Terrace at Beverwyck in September 2004. Prior to that, the suit says, she had been living on her own.

The suit, filed in state Supreme Court in Albany County, also claims damages for breach of contract and consumer fraud.

The allegations of fraud relate to what the suit says were “deceptive” advertisements and representations to the public.

Mellen is represented by attorney Sean Doolan of Windham, New York. The defendants’ attorneys are Carter, Conboy, Case, Blackmore, Maloney and Laird of Albany.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

A paid assessment


Diabetes doctor’s
opinion is for sale

By David Baker
Posted Sunday, April 27, 2008

Matthew Leinung is not only a doctor at Albany Medical Center Hospital.

He also apparently is a genius.

Dr. Leinung has been enlisted by the attorneys for Samaritan Hospital to say that Samaritan was not in any way responsible for Lisa Baker’s horrific death.

And using only the records from 2003, he is able to say, four years later, exactly what happened before Lisa, an insulin-dependent diabetic, collapsed into a coma with a blood sugar reading recorded in Samaritan own records as 2 mg/dL.

And that Samaritan Hospital is in no way responsible for her collapse and subsequent death.

Dr. Leinung has an answer for everything, even if it defies accepted treatment and all logic.
Not following a physician’s direct order? Not a problem, according to Dr. Leinung. That’s not a deviation from the ‘standard of care.’

And not giving Lisa a complex carbohydrate – bread or some crackers – after her blood sugar had dipped just below normal a few hours before she collapsed and she had been given orange juice and an intravenous shot of glucose, both of which would push the sugar level up very quickly but not keep it up very long?

Just fine, according to Dr. Leinung, even though that is exactly what was called for in the hospital’s own hypoglycemia protocol, a protocol a consulting physician had specifically ordered that evening to be used if Lisa became hypoglycemic.

Someone should tell the American Diabetes Association about this alleged change. Appearing on its Web page, ( ) in an article titled “Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2008” is the following paragraph (emphasis added):

* Glucose (15–20 g) is the preferred treatment for the conscious individual with hypoglycemia, although any form of carbohydrate that contains glucose may be used. If glucose 15 min after treatment shows continued hypoglycemia, the treatment should be repeated. Once glucose returns to normal, the individual should consume a meal or snack to prevent recurrence of hypoglycemia.

But following the treatment recommended by the ADA and required by the hospital’s own written instructions is no longer the standard of care, according to Dr. Leinung. He doesn’t say when following up orange juice with a longer-lasting meal as the standard treatment for hypoglycemia was modified, or who suggested such a dangerous change and why.

The ‘standard of care,’ it seems, is whatever the defendant provider did during the incident that resulted in a lawsuit.

And that glucose meter reading of 2 mg/dL taken after Lisa later was found not breathing?
The meter was wrong. At low levels, Dr. Leinung insists, such meters are inaccurate.
The true glucose level, he claims, was closer to 80 mg/dL.

How convenient! The real level was not anywhere near the dangerous reading the meter showed – even though hospital staff immediately treated Lisa for severe hypoglycemia – but instead was within the safe range for glucose.

The problem with making outrageous claims like these that that it makes all the defendants’ denials and explanations worthless. They deny everything, so none of their denials carry any weigh or credibility.

And Dr. Leinung’s opinion – for which he was likely paid a handsome sum – raises another question: If Lisa did have a cardiac arrhythmia – an irregularity in her heartbeat – that caused her collapse, and if the meter was known to be that inaccurate – why didn’t the hospital’s management discuss it with me and explain it at the time? Why did they instead act as if they had something to hide, slamming the door in my face when I asked for information, and then removing documents from Lisa’s chart. Is that how people who believe their conduct was appropriate would act?

No, of course it isn’t. They acted as if they were guilty, as if they knew exactly what had happened and their only concern was avoiding the consequences. This response, not surprisingly, very quickly destroys trust and credibility.

And they wonder why there are lawsuits?

Dr. Leinung is making his claims as an expert in this case. The original purpose of experts in lawsuits was to explain to judges and juries complicated medical, financial or other technical matters that a lay person would not understand.

But that function has been corrupted over time so that now very often parties to a lawsuit simply find – and pay – someone who is prepared to say just what the lawyer wants said. The case then becomes a battle between two or more ‘experts,’ each of whom will usually say just the opposite of what the ‘experts’ on the other side are claiming.

Which means, of course, that each time one of them is completely wrong.

Insurance companies – thanks to those sky high malpractice premiums – can afford to retain experts who will say just what they want.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the defendants are right; it just means that they can usually afford the more impressive “experts.”

People like Matthew Leniung, who, for a nice check, will evidently will say just about anything another provider wants to hear.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Another unreported death

Lawsuit over patient who died

after leaving a hospital settled

By David Baker
Posted Thursday, April 24, 2008

A lawsuit alleging that a hospital and a doctor discharged a patient while she was seriously ill and who died later the same day after she was brought back to the hospital has been settled.

The suit names Samaritan Hospital, Northeast Health Inc. and Dr. Sharon Bedford.

According to the suit, Sacora Grimes went to the emergency room at Samaritan Hospital in Troy on July 22, 2004 with acute confusion and an inability to answers questions.

She was admitted as a patient that day.

But two days later the suit says, she “was prematurely discharged from the defendant hospital, notwithstanding she was suffering from headaches, blurred vision and confusion.”

Later that day, according to the suit, “….Sarora Grimes was found to be suffering from seizure-like activity and was brought back to the defendant hospital, where she was pronounced dead.”

The suit alleges that the defendants “did not timely and properly diagnose and treat the plaintiff’s decedent and prematurely discharged her from the hospital, thereby resulting in her death.”

The complaint – the legal document that starts a lawsuit – does not state Grimes’ age and no obituary could be found in local newspapers.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the estate by Jesse Thornton. It is listed as being “settled” in June 2007 on the New York State Unified Court System web page.

Thornton was represented by Peter Moschetti Jr. of Anderson, Moschetti & Taffany in Latham. The defendants’ lawyers are listed as Thuillez, Ford, Gold, Butler & Young of Albany. A search of the archives of the area’s largest newspaper, the Times Union, produced no indication that this claim was reported by the paper.


Information for this item was gathered during research for a new Web page that will report lawsuits filed against Capital Region medical providers. Plaintiffs’ attorneys are encouraged to e-mail details of such claims to Confidentiality will be maintained

Sunday, April 20, 2008

An unreported death

Hospital faces lawsuit over man who died after choking
By David Baker
Posted Sunday, April 20, 2008

Lisa Baker died in Samaritan Hospital, allegedly because she was not given food. Her blood glucose level fell to near zero, causing irreversible organ damage.

George Rainville of Cohoes died in the same hospital, allegedly because he was given food.

Rainville had a ‘nothing by mouth’ order in effect. But he was given bread or a roll and choked on it.

That’s according to a lawsuit pending in state Supreme Court.

The suit, filed by Rainville’s daughter, Nancy Miller, alleges that the food was given to the 81-year-old man by an employee of the hospital, and that medical staff failed to realize that he was choking, or to make an attempt to remove the bread from his airway.

Rainville had been admitted to Samaritan Hospital on March 22, 2006. He died three days later.

Named in the suit are the hospital and Northeast Health, Inc., which, according to court papers are liable “in allowing staff who were either unqualified, distracted, overworked, unsupervised and/or who otherwise failed to provide even minimally reasonable care, diagnosis, and treatment to plaintiff’s decedent while plaintiff’s decedent was solely under the care and control of defendants, such that a cascade of improper hospital procedures and outright and blatant and deadly errors precipitated first plaintiff’s decedent choking on food that should not have been provided to him, and then the failure to note his eating, then the utter failure to examine or diagnose plaintiff’s decedent, and the failure to discover and dislodge the bread or roll upon which he was choking and causing and allowing the plaintiff’s decedent to expire.”

According to court papers, the hospital did not take adequate steps to inform staff of Rainville’s status, in that it “failed to promulgate and enforce reasonable and proper protocols and procedures to properly and clearly identify patients who were to be given nothing by month,” and that its employees “failed to review plaintiff’s chart and know the contents thereof.”

The suit also alleges that hospital staff lied about what had happened to Rainville.

“The defendants, Samaritan Hospital and Northeast Health continued to deceive plaintiff’s decedent’s family as to the true cause and the true circumstances surrounding his demise,” the lawsuit says.

The suit alleges that as a result, Rainville “was caused to take his last breaths and end his life without having his family by his side and defendants thereby deprived (Rainville) of the comfort of having his family with him at the end of his life.”

The suit seeks unspecified amounts in both compensatory and punitive damages.

Rainville was a U.S. Army veteran and had retired from Bendix in Green Island.

Miller’s attorney is Bonnie Chavin of the Seymour Fox law firm in Troy. The defendants are represented by Thorn, Gershon, Tymann and Bonanni of Albany. In legal papers the defendants have denied any liability.

The lawsuit was filed on Feb. 7, 2007. A search of the archives of the area’s largest newspaper, the Times Union, produced no indication that the claim was reported by the paper.


Two cases with much in common
There are several striking similarities between the allegations in Lisa’s lawsuit and those in the case filed by the estate of George Rainville. Both suits alleged that written orders were not followed. Both allege that the hospital failed to property monitor the patient’s condition. Both allege that information was withheld by the defendants. And both suits assert the legal doctrine of res ipsa loquitur – under which the presumption is that the defendants are liable because the cause of the damage was under the exclusive control of the defendants and that patient’s injuries would not have occurred in the absence of someone’s negligence.
And there is one other coincidence in these two tragedies: George Rainville is buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Waterford. Lisa’s final resting place is just a quarter-mile away, in St. Mary Cemetery on Middletown Road.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Feds target glycemic coma

Medicare proposes adding Lisa's

'never event' to its no-pay list

The following paragraph appears in a press announcement released on April 14 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). (Emphasis added.)

"CMS is seeking public comment on enhancements to the preventable hospital acquired conditions (HAC) policy, including the relationship of HACs to the National Quality Forum’s (NQF) list of Serious Reportable Adverse Events (“never events”). As we noted last year, CMS adopted several items from the NQF’s list of events as HACs, including retained foreign object after surgery, air embolism, blood incompatibility, stage III & IV pressure ulcers, falls, electric shock, and burns. CMS is now seeking comments regarding our proposal to add glycemic control, including hypoglycemic coma, to the list of selected conditions that will no longer result in higher Medicare payment when acquired in the hospital. Hypoglycemic coma is closely related to NQF’s listing of death or serious disability associated with hypoglycemia."

As has been reported here, several health insurers have already said they will no longer pay for treatment needed as a result of hypoglycemia that occurs while a person is a patient in a healthcare facility.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Following the money

“Never event” not a concern for
Albany’s conflicted politician

By David Baker
Posted Sunday, April 6, 2008

The decision by several health insurance companies to stop paying medical providers for treatment needed following a so-called “never event’ makes all the more disturbing the New York state Health Department’s refusal to take any action over Lisa’s death.

Back in November 2003, just after Lisa had been found in her hospital bed close to death and with a near-zero blood glucose level, I filed a complaint with the department.

Seven months later the department sent me, at my request, a copy of a “summary of professional analysis of care” from an outside organization called IPRO, in which, at the end of just three paragraphs, the unidentified reviewer concluded that “the care rendered appears to be appropriate.”

This care, which IPRO and the department found satisfactory and requiring no action, included about $100,000 worth of treatment over three weeks following one of those “never events” that a growing number of insurance companies say is evidence, in itself, of negligence by the provider. If one of these events occurs, the insurers say, the medical provider must be responsible for it, and the insurer will not pay for any treatment that is needed as a result of the event.

As has been reported here, one of those “never events” is hypoglycemia which occurs while a patient is in the care of the healthcare provider.

Even more disturbing – but sadly not surprising in Albany’s corrupt political culture – was the refusal of numerous legislators to take any interest in conducting an examination of the Health Department’s decision.

Among those politicians were the chairs of both the Senate and Assembly health committees. It was almost a year after I wrote to Sen. Kemp Hannon – and then only after my letter had been mentioned by Fred Dicker on his radio show – that Hannon reacted. And that was only to claim off the air to Dicker that I had been rude to a member of his staff and had refused to give her my telephone number. He never did look into my complaint.

As I later reported, since 1999 Hannon has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the healthcare industry that his committee is supposed to oversee. Several thousand of those dollars have been donated by Northeast Health Inc., the company that operates Samaritan Hospital.

Also benefiting from Samaritan’s generosity are assemblymen Ronald Canestrari, Pat Casale and Robert Reilly, former assemblymen Paul Tonko and Bob Prentiss and senators Neil Breslin and Hugh Farley.

As I said at the time, these people know who they really represent. And its not a helpless hospital patient dying from a lack of basic diabetic care.

A little later Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno’s staff also declined to examine the issue – and that after Karen Crummy, an attorney in his office, had told me several times that she would investigate. But four months after my first conversation with her, a call was returned not by Crummy but by Bruno’s spokesman, who, in a guarded tone, told me that a review might be done, but that I would probably never be told of the result.

And I never was.