Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Penalty requst denied

Attorney avoids sanction
for late information

By David Baker
Posted Thursday, July 3, 2008

A request for a penalty against an attorney representing Samaritan Hospital for failing to provide information about blood glucose meters within the required 30 days was denied at a hearing this week.

My demand for the make and model of meters in use at the time Lisa was found in her hospital bed near death and – according to the hospital’s own records, with a glucose level at just 2 – was made back in April after the hospital’s attorneys claimed in a legal document that these meters are inaccurate at low glucose levels.

Lisa became partially conscious but unable to speak when sedation was removed three days after she collapsed on November 11, 2003. She then became completely unresponsive and died on December 2.

In their continuing defense of the lawsuit, the attorneys had a doctor claim in an affidavit that Lisa’s glucose level when she was found unconscious was really a safe 80 – even though she was immediately treated for severe hypoglycemia.

The doctor, Matthew Leinung of Albany Medical Center Hospital, claims to know that Lisa’s collapse was caused not by low blood sugar but by an abnormal heart beat.

He also asserts that rechecking blood sugar only once after an earlier episode of hypoglycemia, and not eating some complex carbohydrates – bread or crackers, after first stopping a glucose drop with rapidly absorbed orange juice – is not necessary, even though that is exactly what is called for in the hospital’s own written protocol on hypoglycemia, a protocol that one of the doctors treating Lisa had specifically ordered to be used if she became hypoglycemic.

Leinung’s assertion is not just wrong, it is dangerous. If followed, it will cause injury and death. And it shows just how far members of the medical profession will go to protect each other from the consequences of their actions. This affidavit will likely haunt Leinung for years to come.

The information about the glucose meters was finally provided by attorney Kathleen Ryan on June 17 – six weeks after it was requested and more than three weeks past the time allowed.

A judge has the authority to impose a penalty for such conduct but Supreme Court Justice Stephen Ferradino declined to do so.

Ferradino wasn’t so lenient with me. In 2006 he ordered me to pay $100 to each of three law firms representing the defendants after attorney Stephen Coffey ignored Ferradino’s written instructions to notify the defense attorneys that he, Coffey, was reviewing the case with a view to taking it over. The money was for costs incurred by the attorneys in preparing and serving motions to have the case dismissed, motions they probably would not have served if they had received a letter from Coffey.

I paid the money to the defendants. Coffey said he would reimburse me but he did not do so until I had sued him in Small Claims Court, gone to a trial and then threatened to enforce the judgment I obtained from the court.