Gettys v. Joaquim Wong, MD, LSUHSC & Children’s Hospital
On December 3, 2015, a jury in Civil District Court in New Orleans, Louisiana, returned a defense verdict for Dr. Joaquim Wong, LSU Health Sciences Center (State of Louisiana) in a four day medical malpractice case involving the death of a child at Children’s Hospital of New Orleans.
Gabrielle Gettys, who was 16 years of age, was admitted to Children’s Hospital on December 10, 2008, as a longstanding GI patient suffering with ulcerative colitis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. She suffered from significant GI bleeding. Following her admission, she began having headaches, and was diagnosed with papilledema. After CT scans and MRIs confirmed lesions in the brain, the team of physicians believed the child suffered from an infectious disease process in the brain in part due to being an immune-compromised patient from her steroid treatment.
Dr. Wong performed a lumbar puncture in the evening of December 10th, the same date of her admission, suspecting infection. About four hours later, the child suffered a brain herniation and died about a day later.
Plaintiffs’ alleged that Dr. Wong breached the standard of care in failing to properly treat the patient, by suspecting infection over cerebral thrombosis, which blood clots were not visible on imaging studies performed. Plaintiffs also alleged that the defendant withdrew a greater amount of spinal fluid than was needed for testing, and that as a result, the child herniated and died.
Dr. Wong contended that at the top of the differential diagnosis was infection due to the child’s presentation, based on the imaging studies and due to her compromised immune system. Standard of care was to test spinal fluid for atypical infections which required a greater volume of fluid. Moreover, had the child had blood clots, infection was still within the differential.
After hearing four days of testimony, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants after deliberating just over 20 minutes. Dr. Wong and LSUHSC were represented by Peter J. Wanek and Kathryn T. Trew.