An elderly man with a spinal fracture who was admitted to an NCH Healthcare System hospital last year was repeatedly raised into a sitting position by hospital staff despite an order of bed rest, causing a gaping hole in his back that led to cardiac arrest and his death, a widow contends in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Ethel Brett, an 84-year-old resident of Bentley Village, filed the lawsuit against NCH and Dr. Joel Ying as the personal representative of her late husband, Norman K. Brett.
Her husband was 83 when he died at the hospital on March 23, 2006, one day after he was admitted. The hospital is now known as NCH Downtown Naples Hospital.
Brett initially was admitted to what then was known as North Collier Hospital on March 20, 2006, for a spinal fracture and was seen by Ying, a hospitalist on the staff, who assessed him as likely suffering from an acute compression fracture. However, Ying failed to order a restriction of activity or other special procedures to prevent further spinal injury, according to the lawsuit filed in late April in Collier Circuit Court.
Two days later, Ying ordered the patient transferred to the neurosurgery unit at the downtown hospital with a diagnosis of an “unstable spine fracture” but didn’t stabilize his cardiac condition, according to the complaint.
A neurosurgeon ordered “absolute” bed rest for Brett on the day he was admitted to the downtown hospital but that order was ignored by the nursing staff, which repeatedly raised Brett up into a sitting position, the lawsuit says.
The movement caused significant pain and his spinal fracture to widen into a “gaping hole,” according to the lawsuit, which says he went into cardiac arrest and died.
The lawsuit contends the hospital failed to closely monitor him and failed to follow orders for strict bed rest when nursing staff raised him into a sitting position. In turn, the hospital didn’t adequately monitor his cardiac and respiratory condition and didn’t provide timely advanced life support, according to the complaint.
“It was ghastly,” Ethel Brett said. “They had him propped up. You don’t prop him up if there is damage to the spine.”
She and her husband, a retired farmer from Illinois, had been married 40 years.
“I am still crying every day,” she said. “He was too good of a husband to lose. It was not right.”
Her Fort Myers attorney, Terry Nelson, couldn’t be reached for comment.
NCH issued a statement pointing to patient privacy laws.
“Out of respect for patient confidentiality, it is not appropriate for us to comment on any of the care that was provided to Mr. Brett,” NCH spokeswoman Debbie Curry said in a statement. “We can assure you though that the facts and circumstances surrounding the care that was provided have been thoroughly reviewed.
“We look forward to the opportunity to present all of the facts of this case to a jury and are confident that they will concur with our conclusion that there is no basis for this claim.”
Ying and his practice, the Pandya/King Group, declined comment.