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Child Declared Dead Was Alive – Lawsuit Settled

In a case strikingly (and frighteningly) similar to one I am currently handling, a patient’s family filed suit in California for the family of a child who was pronounced dead by a hospital and then later found to actually be alive. In both my current case and the California case, the patient suffered brain damage from the delay in necessary treatment and was forced to sue the hospital and doctors to obtain compensation for the injuries and medical care caused by the obvious negligence of the medical providers.

In the California case, which settled in April, 2008, then 20 month old Mackayla Jespersen was rushed to the emergency room after being found floating facedown in her family’s pool in November, 2003. Paramedics initially provided treatment to Mackayla at her home and then transported her to the emergency room of the Anaheim Memorial Medical Center where doctors pronounced her dead 39 minutes after arrival. Following the determination that Mackayla was dead, the doctors removed a breathing tube and left her unattended for over an hour despite the fact that Mackayla’s parents and grandmother advised doctors and nurses that they saw her breathing.

Just over an hour after Mackayla was left for dead, a police officer who was photographing the body observed her chest moving and called for help. Mackayla’s family argued in their lawsuit against the hospital and treating doctors that Mackalya should have been warmed upon arrival at the emergency room so that her vital signs could be properly monitored. The family further argued that if Mackayla had not been left unattended for over an hour, she would have recovered from the drowning event or suffered significantly less brain damage. The hospital and treating doctors argued that it was not the absence of treatment for the hour she was wrongfully declared dead, but rather the 15 minutes under water, that caused her brain injury.

Mackayla, who is now 6 years old, has regained most of her brain functioning and appears about to learn to walk, but she continues to suffer from spastic movements and requires medical care from her injuries. The settlement amount is confidential.