Public Chicago Hospital Subject of Two Malpractice Lawsuits

Medical malpractice attorneys report that Illinois Stroger Hospital in Cook County is facing two medical malpractice lawsuits, one of which resulted in a patient death.

Cook County Commissioner Peter Silvestri recently stated that the county may reach an out-of-court settlement, as much as $1.75 million, with a man who had his leg amputated. Jessie Peoples, now in his sixties, was admitted to Stroger Hospital in 2007 for treatment for an ulcer and numbness in his right leg. While at Stroger, Peoples was diagnosed with a vascular problem and referred to the vascular clinic within the hospital.

The problem in Peoples’ leg persisted, however, and he went to St. Francis Hospital in Blue Island for additional treatment. At St. Francis, a massive infection was found in his leg, advanced to the point that it required amputation. Peoples filed a lawsuit against Stroger Hospital, seeking a $1.75 million settlement for failing to meet a standard of care. Cook County’s Board of Commissioners must vote on whether or not they will accept the settlement.

In cases in which the defendant is a public entity, such as Cook County, settlements must be approved by the traditional County Board process. This includes review by a litigation subcommittee, a vote in the finance committee, and a full vote by the County Board of Commissioners.

In a similar medical malpractice case back in 2000, Dorota Spyrka was admitted to Stroger Hospital for difficulty breathing, high fever, and an abnormal X-ray. Spyrka’s blood was found to have very low oxygen levels, and she was administered supplemental oxygen and antibiotics for several days. Over those days she remained either stable or showed signs of improvement, until she began screaming out that she was unable to breathe. Oxygen saturation in the blood is normally 98 or 99%, but Spyrka’s had fallen to just 67%, and her heart rate was increasing.

Spyrka suffered a pulmonary embolism, which occurs when a blood clot forms in the large veins of the abdomen, pelvis, or legs, also known as deep vein thrombosis. The blood clot breaks loose and migrates to the pulmonary arteries (which carry blood to the lungs) and, in Spyrka’s case, blocks the main artery, causing low blood pressure, shock, or death.

Spyrka was taken to the ICU and put on a ventilator when it was determined she was suffering a pulmonary embolism. She was given TPA, which is a thrombolytic agent that dissolves blood clots. Spyrka’s oxygen saturation improved, and her heart rate reduced to normal. By the next day, her oxygen saturation level returned to 98%, and the hospital team began giving her Heparin. Heparin is an anticoagulant meant to slow down blood clot formation, although it does not have an effect on pre-existing clots. The heparin was discontinued the next day at the consent of Dr. Chi Du, who was then a first-year family practice intern. Other doctors testified that Dr. Du would not have the authority to write an order discontinuing the drug without first checking with a superior. None of the other doctors testified to giving Dr. Du consent.

According to court documents, Spyrka began to go into cardiac arrest at 11 a.m. the morning after the Heparin was discontinued. Around 11:20, she developed severe bardycardia and hypertension, and approximately one half hour later, she was pronounced dead. After a lengthy trial, the jury awarded Spyrka’s family nearly $17 million.

Medical malpractice attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm are concerned that Chicago residents are receiving substandard care at public hospitals. Too many victims of medical malpractice do not come forward. Lawsuits are an effective way to enact protocol and safety changes in hospitals to prevent any similar problems from occurring again.