The mother of a child who died of respiratory failure at Palos Community Hospital has settled her lawsuit against the hospital and a physician for $4.25 million. The parties involved in the lawsuit over the child’s death had settled the matter in late November 2018, though the settlement still awaits formal approval by a Law Division judge.
Child’s Death from Respiratory Failure
On Oct. 16, 2011, 23-month-old Ryan Kutchinski, Jr. was taken to the emergency room at Palos Community Hospital in Palos Heights with symptoms including a fever, a runny nose, and a cough. At that time, emergency room physician Tam V. Thai treated the child for croup – an infection of the upper airway – and discharged him once his breathing improved.
The next morning, the child continued to face difficulty breathing and was taken to an urgent care center, where he was treated and sent back to Palos Community Hospital.
On Oct. 18, at 4:33 a.m., the child stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest. Dr. Kaushik J. Pandya, the on-call pediatrician monitoring the child, was informed about his condition while he was resting at home. Lawyers for the child’s mother argued that the hospital should have escalated the situation at that point. Instead, Dr. Pandya removed orders for continuous use of a blood-oxygen monitor, opting to have therapists check in with the child every few hours until the doctor could visit him during his rounds.
A press release by the mother’s lawyers stated that “There was no opportunity for Ryan to be seen later that day. Ryan’s atypical presentation of croup required continuous cardiac and pulse oximetry monitoring upon admission to the hospital at the very least. Instead, he went unmonitored for extended periods of time, leading to a code blue situation and failed intubation at PCH [Palos Community Hospital] which, like his diagnosis, was handled improperly.”
According to court documents, the on-call nurses tried unsuccessfully to intubate the child multiple times. The doctors present stopped administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation at 5:03 a.m., determining that the child was alive but brain dead.
The child was transferred to Advocate Christ Medical Center Hope Children’s Hospital on Oct. 19, 2011, where he was pronounced dead the next day.
“Inexperienced Code Team”
Allison Kutchinski, the child’s mother, sued Palos Community Hospital, Dr. Pandya, Dr. Thai, and Dr. Michael J. Bautista, alleging that her son’s condition required admission to a dedicated pediatric hospital with physicians who had experience with pediatric respiratory distress. Her lawsuit also contended that Palos Community Hospital and its staff failed to properly assess and treat the child’s condition. (Dr. Thai and Dr. Bautista were later dismissed from the lawsuit before the other parties reached the settlement.)
According to a press release issued by one of the lawyers representing the mother over her child’s death, “PCH failed to monitor Ryan and assigned him an inexperienced code team working the graveyard shift who struggled with performing proper monitoring and life-saving measures, all of which contributed to Ryan’s oxygen deprivation and untimely death.”
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