Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Sunday, July 06, 2008

A tale of two deaths

Similar cases,
different stories

From the archives
This story first appeared here on August 18, 2006

By David Baker

The report on Aug. 17 that the state Health Department had stripped an emergency room doctor of his license is the first time that most people in the Capital Region would have heard of this case.

Except those who have been reading this blog. Details of one of the accusations of misconduct against the doctor have been reported here several times in the two years Answers For Lisa has been on the Web.

The former doctor is Louis Sidoti of Wynantskill. Sidoti worked at Albany Memorial Hospital and at St. Peter’s Hospital. He faced 17 allegations of misconduct.

One of them involved his treatment of then-58-year-old Joan A. Clark of Rensselaer. As was reported here in August of 2005, Clark had a personal and family history of heart problems. On April 8, 2002, she was taken to the emergency room at Albany Memorial Hospital complaining of back pain and vomiting. It is known that in women, back pain is often a symptom of a heart attack. But despite this, and her medical history, a doctor in the hospital’s emergency room – now known to be Sidoti – gave Clark a hurried examination – but not a normally routine EKG or blood work – and sent her home.

An hour later, Sidoti was pronouncing her dead after she collapsed just after getting home and was rushed back to the hospital in an ambulance.

A second post here later that month reported that the lawsuit brought by Joan Clark’s husband, Fred, had been settled.

The first posting pointed to the Clark case as an example of how Capital Region media – in this case, the Times Union – ignored this story, but had given extensive coverage to another case that was remarkably similar: that of a woman who died after medical personnel refused to respond to her complaints, over many hours, of extreme pain.

The woman, Laura Woolsey, had just been released from Ellis Hospital in
Schenectady after treatment for a heart condition.

In that case, the Times Union went all out: several stories over three days, and an editorial.

But the Clark case – even though Joan Clark’s husband is a well known former city councilman in Rensselaer – was never mentioned.

As was pointed out in the posting on this site, the only real difference in the case that was reported and the one that was ignored was that Woolsey was in the Schenectady County Jail at the time. The jail does not provide the Times Union with a steady stream of money for advertising: Northeast Health Inc., which owns both Memorial Hospital and Samaritan, does.

The real striking part of this story is that it is now clear that everybody involved – the hospital, the lawyers and the insurance company – knew right from the start that Sidoti’s treatment of Clark was far from the standard of care, and that she had died as a direct result of his incompetence. Yet they still denied responsibility, forcing Fred Clark to file a lawsuit and go through a legal battle before they settled the case three years later, in effect admitting their doctor had killed his wife.

In Lisa’s case, the first thing the hospital’s management did was to take everything out of her medical chart. Three days later her folder contained no records prior to her transfer from the room where she had been found, near death and with a with a blood sugar reading of just 2. As in the Clark case, they knew right then they had a problem. The first order of business was to hide it.

The next was to call the lawyers.