Taken to Emergency, Infant Is Allowed To Die From Dehydration

A verdict was awarded in 7th Circuit Court of Genesee County for the case of an infant that was taken to the emergency room, but allowed to die from dehydration.

A reasonable person would not think it possible that in this day and age a baby could die of dehydration while actually being in a hospital.

But that is what happened to a seven-week-old infant who was taken to the emergency room of Hurley Hospital in Flint, Michigan for treatment and died when allowed to dehydrate.

Because the mother was born with cerebral palsy and scoliosis and did not think she would ever have children, she and her boyfriend were thrilled to be parents and considered their son to be a “miracle baby.” But because of a difficult delivery, the mother decided to have her tubes tied after the C-section delivery.

A few weeks after birth, the infant developed cold symptoms, diarrhea and then nausea. After a consultation with the pediatrician, he was taken to the emergency room of Hurley Hospital by paramedics who while transporting him noticed signs of dehydration.

In the emergency room, he was assigned to the care of Dr. Patrick Hawley who examined the infant. He did not properly evaluate for the early signs and symptoms of dehydration, and released the seven-week-old baby from the emergency room without any treatment because he “looked normal.”

The baby returned home with his parents who were advised to let the illness “run its course.” Two days later the parents called 911 and their son was transported to Hurley and was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. The subsequent autopsy revealed he died from “severe dehydration.”

A civil lawsuit was filed against Dr. Hawley who was found to be negligent, causing a wrongful death, and ordered to pay damages totaling approximately $930,000. The case was heard in the 7th Circuit Court of Genesee County with presiding judge Geoffrey Neithercut announcing the jury’s verdict on May 15, 2015.

“Every ER expert you hear from will tell you that a baby who is dehydrated may look normal,” said Eileen Kroll, attorney for the plaintiffs. “That is why you can’t judge a book by its cover. You have to dig deeper than how the infant looks. You have to look for specific things like decreased tears and decreased urine.”

Kroll, the lead attorney, is a partner in the firm of Cochran, Kroll & Associates in Livonia, MI, with an office in Flint. Kroll is a Registered Nurse who worked in a surgical intensive care unit at a major Detroit hospital before becoming an attorney. Laura Johnson, an associate at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, assisted Kroll in trying the case.

There are news articles in abundance about how many children die of dehydration and the numbers are staggering – about 2 million children under age 2 per year, stresses Kroll. “But even more staggering is these deaths don’t occur here. They occur in third world countries where they don’t have fully equipped hospitals or ER departments.

“But this infant was not in a third world country,” Kroll adds. “He was in Flint, Michigan, at a major hospital that is a level one trauma center. But he only got five minutes in a very busy ER by a doctor who was nearing the end of his shift. And that doctor did not do an accurate history and did not do an accurate assessment for early signs of mild dehydration.”

In her closing arguments to the jury, Kroll said: “In the English language there are orphans and widows. But there is no word for a mother who loses her son.”

Born in Livonia, Kroll earned her BS in Nursing from Madonna University and her law degree from University of Detroit. She specializes in medical and nursing malpractice.

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