A jury awarded a surviving husband $4 million in a wrongful death suit after medical professionals failed to notice signs of a latex allergy that eventually claimed the life of his wife. Erin Kelly was 29 years old when she went in for a hysterectomy. After surgery, Mrs. Kelly complained that she felt itchy, was nauseous and had blisters on her lips. She was given Benadryl for the itching and the nausea was attributed to the anesthesia.
A day later, Mrs. Kelly was gasping for breath in her hospital bed and had to be intubated and placed on a ventilator. She was moved to the intensive care unit but never recovered. Mrs. Kelly died four days after her surgery.
The hospital's own allergy policies required that each patient's allergies be determined prior to admission as well as any known allergies that might indicate other unknown allergies be documented and investigated. In Mrs. Kelly's case, she noted an allergy to chestnuts which can indicate a sensitivity to latex. This should have been noted in her chart as well as displayed in her hospital room, among other safety measures that were part of the hospital's own policies.
The nurse that assessed Mrs. Kelly was unaware of the hospital procedures. Her death was caused by untreated anaphylactic shock caused by the use of latex in her surgical procedure and subsequent treatment.
The surgeon was not held responsible, but the hospital was deemed negligent by the jury. The hospital was held responsible for the negligence of the nurse in identifying the risk factors and the failure in training and enforcement of hospital policies.
Source: Outpatient Surgery, "Inside $4.7M Fatal Latex Allergy Case," July 10, 2012