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Lawsuit: Hospital, surgeon ‘negligent’ in girl’s death

March 24, 2015


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The family of a Forest Hills seventh grader who died after an accident during surgery is suing Spectrum Hospitals and the surgeon who performed the procedure.

Quiniece Henry died on February 13, 2014, five days after pediatric surgeon Dr. James M. DeCou placed a catheter inside the 13 year old. Dr. Jeremy C Bushman also performed the surgery, but is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

According to the death certificate, the Forest Hills Central Middle School student died from a perforation to her heart after complications with an intravascular line. Kent County Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cohle ruled the death “accidental.”

The lawsuit, filed by Quentin Henry, Quiniece’s father, says Quiniece died due to “negligent placement of a central venous catheter.”

Quiniece was having catheters placed to treat a lymphoma found the day before. An ultrasound had revealed a tumor in Quiniece’s abdomen. Doctors determined she had Burkitt lymphoma, which is the most common childhood lymphoma and is almost always curable. Quiniece’s family was told the cancer had not spread, and that it would take five months of chemotherapy to resolve the lymphoma.

But an x-ray following surgery showed that a catheter tip was “too deep” inside the right atrium of Quiniece’s heart.

The lawsuit goes on to say that the radiologist reported the catheter-tip findings to the surgeons while surgery was still occurring, but that the surgeons did not pull the tip back. That’s despite a written warning from the catheter’s manufacturer alerting surgeons that they should never allow the device to remain in the right atrium.

According to the lawsuit, Dr. Bushman dictated the operative report after surgery, but did not mention the x-ray or its finding of the location of the dialysis-catheter’s tip.

Later that evening, Quiniece’s heart began beating fast, and she was struggling to breathe.

The next morning, tests revealed worsening kidney function, and Quiniece was transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit.

She became restless, uncomfortable, agitated and was “begging for help,” according to the lawsuit.

Despite multiple efforts by nurses and a pediatric intensivist to reverse Quiniece’s worsening condition, the middle school student ultimately became unresponsive and her skin tone turned blue.

The “code team” started CPR, inserted a breathing tube, and injected medications. While the monitor displayed a heart rhythm, the code team felt no pulse.

According to the lawsuit, an echocardiogram found “a significantly sized pericardial effusion, (i.e., fluid filling the sac (pericardium) around the heart.)”

The lawsuit says the intensivist and pediatric cardiovascular surgeon both determined a “mis-positioned dialysis catheter penetrated the heart sac.”

Quiniece suffered profound brain damage and permanent loss of cognitive capacity.

She died on Feb. 13.

The lawsuit also accuses Spectrum Hospital of trying to convince Dr. Stephen Cohle to change the cause of death, which he determined to be “accidental.”

“After the autopsy and final certification of death, a Defendant Spectrum executive and risk managers met with and pressed the Medical Examiner to change the cause of death,” read the lawsuit. “The Medical Examiner declined.”

Spectrum Health responded to the filing of the lawsuit Friday with a written statement.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Henry family during this difficult time. It is not Spectrum Health’s practice to publicly comment on issues of litigation,” read the statement from Bruce Rossman, media relations consultant with Spectrum Health.

Here is the statement released to 24 Hour News 8 when we first reported Quiniece Henry’s death on March 7, 2014.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time. Patients and their families come to our hospital for care and the best possible outcome. Everyone at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is devoted to ensuring a safe, quality environment for each and every child. It is terribly tragic when we lost a patient, particularly a child. We are in the midst of a thorough investigation of what happened and are sharing information with the family. We are unable to comment further at this time, out of respect for the family and to complete our internal review.”