Eddie Bernice Johnson’s ‘painful death’ due to ‘medical negligence,’ family claims – FOX 4 News Dallas-Fort Worth

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The son of former longtime U.S. congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson is preparing to file a lawsuit against Baylor Scott & White, claiming that his mother was abandoned and that negligence with her care led to his mother’s death.

The family says they wanted the truth out about Johnson’s death before the funeral next week.

Eddie Bernice Johnson, just the third Texas woman elected to represent the state in the U.S. House, won reelection 15 times before retiring last January. (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

A letter from Kirk Johnson’s lawyer was sent to Baylor Scott & White Health System and the Baylor Scott & White Institute on Thursday. The letter from attorney Les Weisbrod notified the hospital that they intend to file a lawsuit claiming medical negligence in Congresswoman Johnson’s death in late December.

Per Texas law, Thursday begins a 60-day period where both sides can seek some sort of resolution, and if they don’t, Johnson’s family plans to move forward with a lawsuit.

Johnson’s son described it as an ironic end for a woman who became the first registered nurse elected to Congress.

“She thought that she wouldn’t live three weeks, and she didn’t,” he recalled.

Johnson said his mother, who was recovering from back surgery, called him from her hospital bed at the Baylor Scott and White Institute for Rehabilitation on September 21, saying no one was coming to assist her.

“Before I got there, she had called me, saying that she needed help. She couldn’t get anybody to respond to the button that called the nurse,” he recalled.

When he got to the hospital, less than 15 minutes later, he says she was lying in her own urine and feces.

“Deplorable,” he said. “She was being unattended to. She was screaming out in pain and for help.”

“If she had got proper care at that facility she would be here today,” Johnson continued.

Baylor Scott & White released a short statement to FOX 4 on Thursday.

Weisbrod, Johnson’s longtime attorney and friend, says medical records show her death was due to an infection of the surgery wound.

The lawyer claims that Johnson’s surgeon wrote in his medical records, “she had some post-op complications including when the patient went to rehab post-opR and on the 4th day, the patient was found in bed sitting in her own feces, which was not being cleaned up. The patient’s son had to get the nursing supervisor to finally get help getting her cleaned up. Three days later, she began having copious purulent drainage from the low lumbar incision, which required surgical debridement x 2.”

“All of the evidence, the infection she got, was from the feces and that’s why it’s so unforgivable,” Weisbrod said.

Weisbrod showed reporters medical records from treatments for the infection, with Johnson describing extreme pain, along with her death certificate listing “osteomyelitis of lumbar spine” with no further elaboration.

Weisbrod also told reporters Johnson knew what happened and told him to pursue legal action.

“She knew was happening to her, we discussed it and she asked me to pursue a case for her, weeks ago. Of course, I thought it was going to be a case for the pain she went through and the additional procedure she went through and the medical bills and that she was going to recover, and so it’s very distressing to me that she succumbed to this,” Weisbrod said.

Kirk Johnson claimed his mother had been pushing the call button in an attempt to get help, but no one responded, and he was initially unable to find any nurses on the floor.

Johnson found BSW CEO David Smith and returned to his mother’s room and found the staff cleaning up his mother, according to the release.

Smith allegedly said, “This shouldn’t have happened,” according to a news release.

Johnson said he was told nurses were in training, leaving his mother alone for close to an hour. He later received a voicemail that was played for reporters with an apology from the case manager, citing a staff shortage.

The former congresswoman had a surgical repair of the infected wound and was later moved to a skilled nursing facility on October 18.

Johnson was then moved to her home on December 18 with hospice care, before her death on December 31.

“Hospital acquired infections are not supposed to happen,” Brent Walker said.

Walker is an attorney not involved in the case who is experienced in medical malpractice cases.

“I think it sounds like they have a lot of that initial evidence. So the next step for them will be they have to then go find medical experts,” he added. “Then author what are called pre suit reports. And those reports have to be prepared by experts after full review of the medical records that set out an opinion that what happened here should not have happened.”

Johnson’s lawyer also criticized a law that caps damages at $250,000 in these cases as part of tort reform the legislature passed in 2003.

“The law is the law, it’s a terrible law, this is an illustration of how unfair that law is,” Weisbrod said.

Walker said Johnson’s death may cause people to look at that law.

“It’s a tragic thing what happened to Congresswoman Johnson. But if her death, she can cause us to look a new at this thing and perhaps change this for future families, then perhaps that’s one last bit of service she will have provided us in her stellar career,” Walker 

With her funeral scheduled for next week, Weisebrod was asked, why he decided to go public with these details before the former congresswoman was laid to rest.

“We thought it was important for people to know what happened. To go through the funeral and not have everyone know what happened, we didn’t think that was right,” he said.

The family and lawyer believe a resolution will be reached in the 60 days required before a lawsuit is filed.

Eddie Bernice Johnson will lie in state at Fair Park on Monday. Her funeral is Tuesday.

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