Barbara Dziedzic was visiting her 25-year-old son Josh at Palms West Hospital, a 204-bed medical facility in Loxahatchee, when he collapsed following removal of his IV line. Once the line was removed, he suddenly had tightness in his chest, difficulty breathing, and began convulsions. He would later die at the hospital. The Dziedzic family has since brought a claim of medical malpractice and conspiracy. The hospital is accused of attempting to avoid liability in the incident by misclassifying the cause of his death.
During Josh's final year of high school, he incurred significant injuries in a car accident. He was prescribed painkillers and developed an addiction that he struggled with for several years. More recently, his life appeared to stabilize as he was working at a gym as a trainer while attending Palm Beach State College. In August of 2016, the family received startling news that Josh was in Palms West Hospital recovering from an overdose on opiates. The family spent the next week watching Josh begin to recover. He was starting to exercise again and he was scheduled to be released soon before his death.
Mother Witnesses the Error
Barbara Dziedzic recalled the terror she felt when Josh began struggling to breathe after the IV line was removed. The nurse who was responsible for removal of the central venous catheter is believed to have failed to take the proper precautionary measures. These catheters reach deep within the body, thus are used for longer-term medical care. Ordinarily, the nurse would remove the line when the patient is positioned lying “face-up”. In addition, special patterns for breathing are to be used to regulate pressure to avoid complications such as a pocket of air forming in a vein. Dziedic says the proper protocol was not used.
Cause of Death Concealed
Hospital records indicated that Josh's death was associated with natural causes, contending that there were complications from his overdose. Days later, the body was examined by the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner, whose findings were contrary to the hospital's records. The cause of death was formally changed from “natural” to “accidental.” The Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration investigated the situation and discovered the hospital's erroneous documentation and incident report. Amid this investigation, the hospital supposedly admitted that safety protocols were not adhered to.
Also known as a gas embolism, an air embolism is a rare problem that can have potentially fatal consequences. When a pocket of air (bubble) blocks an artery, it is known as an arterial air embolism. When the blockage occurs within a vein the condition is a venous air embolism, which was the cause of Josh's death in this case. The bubble of air is capable of traveling to the brain or the regions of the heart or lungs, leading to stroke, myocardial infarction, or an inability to breathe.
The lawsuit states the death was caused by a venous air embolism that was acquired due to the hospital's inaction. Medical mistakes of this kind are subject to a requirement that the local health authority be notified. The claim explained that providers may be hesitant to report these errors because they may be penalized by insurers in terms of reimbursement. The named defendants are Palms West Hospital and Columbia Palm Beach GP, their management partner. A representative on behalf of the hospital has since stated that they deny the allegations and expressed condolences for the family of the deceased.