Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A profile in courage

Assemblyman just talks
the talk while patients die

By David Baker
First published April 8, 2005

A letter has finally been received from Assemblyman Richard Gottfried with a response to his request to the state health commissioner for a review of the care Lisa received at Samaritan Hospital prior to her unexpected death.
And what a disappointment it is.

What Gottfried was asked to do - as chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee - was to examine the facts of the case and determine if the Health Department’s conclusion that no rules were broken was appropriate and in the best interests of the people of this state.

What was received - a year after the first letter to Gottfried - is a copy of a letter to him from Commissioner Antonio Novello that states that the department’s investigation “did not identify any violations of the state hospital code or accepted standards of medical practice,” during Lisa’s treatment. 

Checking and maintaining blood glucose levels is basic care for an insulin-dependent diabetic. Samaritan Hospital’s own records show that it failed to do that. Lisa died as a direct result of her blood glucose level falling to near zero

But the hospital is in no way responsible for her death. Why? Because, according to the state’s health commissioner, this basic but essential care is not required by the state of New York.

In his four-sentence cover letter, Gottfried says “I realize you may not find the enclosed correspondence satisfactory.” That’s it. All he did - very reluctantly and only after being publicly embarrassed on “Live From the State Capitol with Fred Dicker” on WROW - was write to Novello.

And now, as far as he is concerned, the matter is closed.

This from the man who had an op-ed piece published last year in the New York Post in which he criticized the Health Department for going too easy on medical providers. “Studies show that thousands of New Yorkers die in hospitals from medical errors,” Gottfried wrote in the piece. “Well over a dozen states have physician-discipline rates higher than New York’s. It’s likely a sign that the Health Department is not doing the aggressive job it should to protect our lives and health.”
Well, evidently it's actually the Legislature that “is not doing the aggressive job it should to protect our lives and health.”

And with people like Richard Gottfried as its members, it’s not likely that anything will change. Those “thousands of New Yorkers” can just going on dying as far as Assemblyman Gottfried is concerned.