It bothers me that the media has focused on only one aspect of this case – Esmin Green was “ignored.”
This was an incredibly busy psych ward. This Huffington Post article quotes a lawsuit Esmin Green’s daughter filed against the hospital as saying that “Sometimes the unit runs out of chairs, … forcing people to wait on foam mats or on the waiting room floor.” According to the article, the lawsuit also admits that the emergency ward “is so poorly staffed that patients are often marooned there for days while they wait to be evaluated.”
Laying on the floor may not be such an uncommon occurrence at Kings County Hospital. Although not what most of us would expect, is it reasonable for the staff at Kings County Hospital to think that the woman just laid on the floor to sleep after waiting for 24 hours?
The Huffington Post article also quotes NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg as saying “I think what [the hospital employees] said is, ‘Oh well, people sleep on the floor all the time, and I didn’t pay any attention,’” “They shouldn’t be sleeping on the floor … and you should pay attention.” [emphasis added]
You’re absolutely right, Mayor Bloomberg. If people should be “paying attention” as you state, what are YOU, as New York’s exalted mayor, doing to improve the staffing so that more of New York’s downtrodden are able to receive necessary services at King’s County Hospital? Are you donating some of your $11.5 billion in personal assets to the system to make it better? Adding additional funding from city coffers? Taking half the staff from your plush office and reassigning them to Kings County Hospital to help? Don’t make me laugh.
You just as much to blame for Ms. Green’s death as the hospital and the administrators. Don’t cut hospital funding then cut bait and run when there is a bad outcome. Put your white halo to the side for a minute and take your licks like a man. A kick in the crotch to you, sir.
It really bothers me that some of the hospital staff tried to cover up Ms. Green’s death. According to the surveillance cameras, she fell from her chair onto the floor at 5:32 AM. Other patients in the same waiting room just sat there and didn’t pay much attention to her. Security guards strained their necks to look at her from around the corner and did nothing. At 6:35 AM, a staff member nudged her with a foot to see if she would move. By then, she was already dead.
King’s County medical records showed that “at 6 a.m., [Ms. Green] was ‘awake, up and about’ and had just used the restroom.” Another entry showed that at 6:20 a.m., [Ms. Green] was “sitting quietly in the waiting room, and had a normal blood pressure.”
The people who wrote these untrue entries and anyone who prompted them to do so should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There is no excuse for lying on medical records like this and doing so gives the whole house of medicine a big black eye.
What bothers me most about Esmin Green’s death is attorney Sanford Rubenstein who is the latest attorney trying to turn a horrible situation into an instant personal retirement account.
Ms. Green’s daughter, Tecia Harrison filed a $25 million lawsuit against Kings County Hospital in connection with her mother’s death. Ms. Harrison can be seen sitting with her mother in the video … right … er … um … well … actually Ms. Harrison is nowhere to be found in the video. In fact, Ms. Harrison, according to this article, had not seen her mother in eight years. Now the emotional distress Ms. Harrison suffered over the death of someone she hasn’t seen in eight years is suddenly worth more money than Ms. Harrison would have made in many lifetimes.
“My mommy was so loving and protecting of her kids, that if she was even there (in the hospital) she would not tell us,” she said. “She’d know we would be so worried and anxious.” Maybe if you bothered to see “your mommy” once or twice in the past 2920 days, you might have known a little bit more about the woman who gave birth to you. Family members state that they called Ms. Green “constantly” — even though Ms. Green didn’t have a phone of her own. From what I can see so far, the family members are about as truthful as the people making the entries in Ms. Green’s medical records. The smell of money can do strange things to people. See other articles about Ms. Harrison’s lawsuit here, here, and here.
Attorney Rubenstein’s lawsuit against Kings County Hospital has a huge problem, though.
Wrongful death? How did the hospital cause Ms. Green’s death? Don’t even try to raise the silly argument that just because Ms. Green died in the hospital, the hospital was responsible for her death. What if a friend died in your living room? Would YOU be responsible for your friend’s death?
Medical malpractice? First, if Ms. Green collapsed from a pulmonary embolism, she was going to die. There is no way that they could save her life in a trauma center ED, much less a psychiatric ED — even if they diagnosed her PE as soon as she hit the floor. Regardless of what you read anywhere else, remember this: Ms. Green’s die was cast as soon as she hit the floor of that waiting room. Not even Michael Debakey could have saved her.
Second, one of the things that a medical malpractice plaintiff must prove in order to be successful against a medical provider is causation. Sure, it is heartwrenching to watch Ms. Green lay on the hospital floor while everyone casts her aside like a dead animal. Every lawyer knows that emotional outrage is the thing that megaverdicts are made of. But Attorney Rubenstein knows that if he cannot prove Ms. Green’s pulmonary embolism was caused by some negligence at Kings County Hospital, his med mal case will never make it to the jury.
Without causation, Rubenstein’s gravy train will slip right through his fingers. So what kind of pablum is Rubenstein feeding to the media? Here are some quotes:
“The length of time that Ms. Green spent in the emergency room … very well may have contributed to her death,” he said. “Physical inactivity was obviously a significant contributing factor.”
“Rubenstein said that had Green been carefully attended to when she arrived at the emergency room, doctors might have noticed swelling in her legs and taken action.”
He hasn’t used the word “causation” yet, but he will. Right now he just had to plant the seed. Later he will cultivate it. Come to papa, baby.
Rubenstein is playing the media like a fiddle and the media is sopping it up like hungry feed hogs. In the coming weeks and months, look for more selected comments to the media from Attorney Rubenstein to try to bolster his case. Soon the words “contributed to” will change to “caused.” Also look for some eunuch expert witness to get paid tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to give an expert opinion that Ms. Green’s wait in the hospital was the sole cause of the blood clot that killed her and that making patients wait for 24 hours to be seen is negligent.
No. On second thought, look for Kings County Hospital to try to settle this out of court as soon as possible to get out of the national spotlight. That way the case can encourage more plaintiffs and attorneys to file multimillion dollar lawsuits for bad events that occur beyond people’s control.
Should Kings County Hospital and the staff be held accountable for trying to cover up the death of Esmin Green? Absolutely.
Should a daughter estranged from her mother for eight years and some loquacious plaintiff’s attorney be given a windfall anywhere near $16 million and $8 million respectively for Kings County Hospital’s cover up? Never.
If the money is going to go anywhere, put it into providing better funding for the care of New York City’s indigent psychiatric population. Kings County Hospital is the only option for most of the low income Black residents who live near the facility in communities like Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville and East New York. After all, Ms. Harrison stated that she only wants “justice” for what happened to her mother, right? What better way to make something good out of her mother’s death than to improve the system that let her mother down in her time of need?
My crystal ball says this won’t happen. Ms. Harrison will soon be the proud owner of a house in the Hamptons.
Just like the Medicare cuts, part of me hopes that Kings County Hospital goes to trial, gets hit with the full $25 million judgment, and goes bankrupt. Close down Kings County Hospital so that the mentally ill people in these poor areas will be forced to percolate into more affluent hospitals in lower Brooklyn, Queens, and Nassau County. Between the decreased psychiatric patient access and the Medicare payment cuts, the ED overcrowding in surrounding NYC Burroughs will kill more affluent people who have to wait for care like everyone else. Once the rich folk start dying, things will change a lot faster. ED overcrowding is an equal opportunity killer.
I have a better idea. Why doesn’t Kings County transport some of the patients in its waiting room to Mayor Bloomberg’s front door and give them tents to camp out for the few days until they get care? Then someone can sue Hizzoner when the next victim dies.
Think you can run a facility on a shoestring budget and then expect that everyone’s going to receive perfect, timely care? Ain’t going to happen. Not in New York City. Not anywhere in the United States. Not even at your hospital.
Esmin Green was the latest unfortunate example.
She definitely won’t be the last.