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Melanie Sanders was born prematurely, but otherwise healthy, in August 2016. She was given a routine eye exam along with 43 other babies that month, and less than a month later she was dead. A medical journal report published last year found that Melanie was one of 23 other infants who contracted adenovirus infections while undergoing the same eye exam in Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's neonatal intensive care unit.
Melanie's family is now suing the hospital for wrongful death, alleging she went into respiratory distress and developed a fatal bacterial infection on top of the viral illness, and that negligent medical professionals are to blame.
Shocking Lack of Safety
That medical report attributed the outbreak to medical staff failing to wear gloves and clean equipment properly. "Observations revealed lack of standard cleaning practices of bedside ophthalmologic equipment and limited glove use," according to the report. All the 23 children that were infected suffered respiratory symptoms, five developed pneumonia, and 11 had eye-related symptoms. In addition to the sick infants, nine adults contracted viral infections, including six nurses and three parents.
The attorney representing the Sanders family, Shanin Specter, called the hospital's use of contaminated equipment "shocking," especially considering the patients were so less than two months old and being treated in the intensive-care unit. "By definition, they are vulnerable to serious injury or death from getting an infection," Specter noted, "and then you don't wear gloves when you do an eye exam, and you don't clean the ophthalmoscope?"
Negligence and Death
Doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals can be held liable for wrongful death if they were negligent and that negligence caused the death of a patient. Additionally, the hospital or medical group they work for, with, or in, can also be legally liable for deaths or other injuries. Additionally, hospitals are responsible for hiring their medical staff of licensed physicians and health care providers, and if a hospital employee's negligence injures a patient, the hospital itself may be held liable for the negligent acts of its employees. Therefore, if hospital staff failed to wear gloves or follow standard cleaning practices, the patient's family may be able to sue the hospital.
However, proving liability in hospital negligence or medical malpractice cases can be difficult. And tracking an infection and its cause is tricky, if not impossible. Which is why the report issued in response to the viral outbreak at Children's Hospital may be essential evidence in this case.
If you're considering a wrongful death lawsuit against a doctor or hospital, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney first.