Troubles are nothing new for Washington D.C.’s only public hospital, United Medical Center. Just last month, I wrote a post about how their obstetrics department was shut down by the health department until they could show improvements. Now the healthcare facility is facing more backlash from a situation that had been overlooked by staff for about a week—at issue? The death of a patient whose family was never notified.
The deceased’s name was Bradford Brown, and he was a 70-year-old man that had been living in the nursing home run by United Medical Center for over two years. After suffering from a stroke, he was transferred to a ward within the hospital where his family had previously visited him. On August 2nd, Bradford’s sister went for a social call along with the daughter, Meiko Brown, and 10-year-old granddaughter. What they were told in the lobby while standing in front of reception with gifts and snacks in hand, was that the hospital did not have a patient by that name. Assuming a mistake, they proceeded to the bed where he once lay and found it empty. It was only then that nurse recognized them and informed the group that Bradford Brown had expired. Even more disturbing—Mr. Brown passed away on July 26th, exactly a week prior.
Hoping for an explanation as well as some type of closure, Ms. Meiko pressed hospital officials. Unfortunately, the news did not get better. Records showed that Mr. Brown had developed breathing problems on the 26th—also stating that the family was notified, although that is contested. Then, soon after he passed, the hospital admittedly “lost” his body for several days.
The hospital calls the event a series of errors, yet that doesn’t seem to even begin to console this family who was denied the opportunity to bid farewell to a family member in a way they would have preferred. I’ve previously written about the prevalence of medical errors in hospitals, and how many consider them to be the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. The bigger issue at hand: when someone’s well-being, or even their life, is at stake, should we—as friends; as family; as a society—tolerate such an inexcusable level of mistakes? Is there an apology that can be made for what those in the healthcare industry internally refer to as “nevers” (i.e. they never should happen under any circumstance). It’s unfortunate for this family and for the surrounding community that the one hospital in place to serve the public, is instead doing it quite a disservice.
Both an Emory School of Law graduate and MBA graduate of Goizueta Business School at Emory, Chris Nace focuses his practice on areas of medical malpractice, drug and product liability, motor vehicle accidents, wrongful death, employment discrimination and other negligence and personal injury matters.