No harm, no foul
Posted by Ron Coleman on July 8, 2008
Heartless cruelty and brutal callousness about a patient’s condition? Yes, but with 20-20 hindsight a prosecutor decides that when a medical staff member charged with the duty of caring for patients instead treats one in obviously desperate distress like garbage, a jury shouldn’t even be given the chance to decide whether that action was criminal:
A nurse at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital was not criminally negligent despite refusing to examine Edith Rodriguez — who was kneeling and screaming in pain with a perforated bowel — and telling her to get off the floor, according to the report by Deputy District Attorney Susan Schwartz.
“Prompt intervention would not have saved her life,” Schwartz wrote in the report to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department about the May 2007 death.
“It cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt” that the nurse’s actions were a substantial factor in the death “or that any member of the MLK nursing or medical staff was criminally negligent,” the report said.
Doctors made a wrong diagnosis and failed to treat the patient properly until it was too late, but “a mistake, even a negligent mistake, does not amount to ‘criminal negligence,'” the report said.
Given that recitation of facts (and of course I have seen neither the actual report nor the primary documents and testimony or interviews), the prosecutor’s unwillingness to even let this near a jury has got to raise some questions.
For some reason this story seems to be of a piece with emergency room reality. Years ago, after falling in the subway and breaking my wrist and elbow and first trying an emergency room, I got back on the subway train to the Port Authority bus station, got onto a commuter bus and then drove ten miles back to my house with one hand rather than wait what seemed to be endlessly for treatment in the emergency room of Beth Israel Hospital. My last recollection of the emergency room is that it looked like the post-battle scene in Gone with the Wind.
Another time I once accompanied my then-67-year-old father to a hospital in Teaneck, New Jersey, Holy Name Hospital, on a Father’s Day when he was doubled over with abdominal pain. He was asked, after filling out the forms, to sit in the waiting room, where his pain got more and more intense. We asked the admitting nurse to get someone to see him, or at least some place where he could lie down, he hurt so much.
My dad ended up lying on the floor of the waiting room for over an hour. No one accommodated him before then. It was a kidney stone. Maybe you have heard about how those kind of hurt. This two-bit outfit left an old man on the floor for an hour without even finding a way to make him comfortable until, the interests of triage being what they are in a brutal M*A*SH*-type environment in Bergen County, New Jersey, one of the couple of wealthiest counties in America, a doctor could see him. My mother, being my mother, wrote to the entire board of this hospital to complain afterwards. Not a single one of them responded.
That’s what happened to a clean, neat, good-looking, middle-class Jewish white man in a suburban hospital on Father’s Day. Is it any surprise that someone several rungs lower on the socio-economic ladder, notwithstanding (indeed) the place on that ladder of the nurse in question, is treated no better, and maybe even somewhat worse? It happens from coast to coast. And will it be any wonder that this attitude will persist if there is no consequence for it?
Watch this story. The private lawsuit will have to serve the public, seeing as how Los Angeles County has declined to. As for my dad, thank God, he’s fine now. Me, I’ll never play the violin again.
UPDATE: People are taking notice.