P7-M damage suit filed vs hospital over student’s death

CEBU CITY — A lawyer and his wife have filed a P7-million damage suit against Cebu Doctors’ Hospital and two of its residents for the death of their only daughter last March.

Had the hospital not been "negligent," the life of their 20-year-old daughter "would have been saved," lawyer Samuel Lagunzad and his wife said in their complaint.

Their daughter was in her senior year as a nursing student at Velez College.

Lawyer Cornelio Mercado, representing Cebu Doctors’ Hospital and resident physicians-Drs. Marlowe Paalan and Marieta Evelyn Balangue-opted not to comment on the complaint, citing sub judice.

However, they have filed an answer that, upon review, came with a P5-million counterclaim for the filing of "the wayward action and besmirching (the hospital’s) reputation."

"It is not right to shift blame to defendant," the hospital said in the counter-claim.

Lagunzad, representing himself and his wife, filed the civil suit before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 8 in Tacloban City last May. He filed an amended version last July 9.

In their complaint, the Lagunzads said their daughter was brought to Cebu Doctors’ Hospital in Cebu City by her boardmates around 8 p.m. last March 7, after suffering from a stomachache.

Maria Luz was reportedly ignored at the waiting area and was brought to the emergency room, interviewed and given a pain reliever only "upon pleadings of her companions."

Based on the complaint, she was transferred to one of the rooms after her companions paid P5,000 as deposit.

In her room, she requested a bedpan to relieve herself but one was obtained only after her companions got it themselves.

She also found it hard to breathe, forcing her companions to request for some oxygen apparatus that allegedly turned out to be defective.

"She continued to complain difficulty in breathing. Subsequently, her companions observed her condition rapidly deteriorating. They trooped to the nurses’ quarters and pleaded for emergency medical assistance. It was discovered that the oxygen administered was defective. The same was replaced for a functioning one, but it was too late," the complaint read.

According to the complaint, Maria Luz was "considerably weakened" at that point and, at 1:25 a.m. the next day, she died.

Based on the certificate of death, she died approximately five hours and 20 minutes from the time she submitted herself for treatment.

Paalan, based on the couple’s complaint, was the resident detailed in the emergency room. It was he who first attended to Maria Luz during her stay.

"For the three hours that the deceased was under his medical care and custody, and despite clear manifestations of a very serious illness which was a life and death situation, he simply undertook interviews, administered pain relievers and other preliminary procedures," the Lagunzads said.

Balangue, meanwhile, was the resident assigned to the floor the patient was sent to.

"She did nothing but talk to Paalan about the clinical manifestations and procedures done in the emergency room," the complainants said.

In his written answer to the original complaint, Mercado denied the negligence charge.

"Defendant’s facilities were available and were in fact used by the para-medical and medical personnel present when Maria Luz was attended to. The personnel promptly responded and had diligently performed and applied their knowledge, learning and skill," he said.

Mercado cited medical records as proof that the patient was given immediate medical attention.

He hinted that interviews and laboratory testing is part of procedure and ought not be viewed as the medical staff’s failure to attend to the patient.

"Grief over the sudden demise of a loved one is understandable. Defendant and the physicians are often confronted with a situation where patients are brought in for medical attention because the condition has become grave. An unfavorable outcome despite efforts should not allow an inference that there was negligence," Mercado said.

"In Maria Luz’s case, something had caused the unstable vital signs which eventually caused death. Whatever that was that afflicted Maria Luz had taken its toll. The signs may have been there for a time but continually ignored, it may have been a life threatening event, and it may have become irreversible even if detected," he said. KNR

Saturday, Nov. 21, 2004



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