Malpractice News

December 7, 2011

Press Release - Estate of Glen Cloninger V. Dr. Kim Chen, ET AL.

Stephen Haskell Law Offices filed suit December 1, 2010 on behalf of the estate of a well-known local architect and real estate developer, Glen Cloninger, together with his family. Cloninger, age 66, died a year ago at Deaconess Medical Center from anoxic brain damage according to his death certificate, following what was supposed to be a minor surgery known as lithrotripsy, intended to eradicate a kidney stone through use of sonic waves.

Cloninger’s family was initially informed he had experienced a heart attack shortly after the procedure was completed, but this turned out not to be the case following the family’s request for an autopsy, and the discovery of an addended chart note placed in the record several days later by the anesthesiologist involved in the procedure, Dr. Kim Chen, D.O.. Instead, the suit filed by Stephen Haskell, claims Cloninger’s airway was mismanaged after his breathing tube was removed post surgically, a process known as extubation. According to the complaint filed, Chen’s job as the patient’s anesthesiologist in the immediate post operative period was to ensure the patient’s airway remains unobstructed during extubation, but in this case the suit claims an airway obstruction led to unrecognized hypoxia, and ultimately irreversible brain damage. Although physicians were ultimately able to establish a heart beat after 73 minutes of CPR, Cloninger was left severely brain damaged following the incident, unable to breathe on his own. He died several days later.

The lawsuit, pending in Spokane County Superior Court, takes on an added twist with the apparent destruction of data generated by medical equipment intended to monitor the patient’s physical status post-operatively. According to information exchanged between the parties to date, the data could have been preserved following Cloninger’s code event, but was instead erased when the monitors were recalibrated following the surgical procedure. According to Haskell, a 9-page addendum written by Dr. Chen, was authored two days later, after the underlying data had already been destroyed. The lawsuit claims the manner in which these later additions to the chart were entered, together with the disappearance of the underlying data, was undertaken with the intent to deceive the family and avoid the appearance of negligence.

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