The Chicago parents of an eight-year-old boy have experience an emotional toll that no parent should ever have to endure. Within four and half hours, they were told their son had died from cardiac arrest, experienced the devastating grief of mourning their son's death, made funeral arrangements for him, only to be later told their son is in fact alive. Even more amazingly, this all happened in a respected Chicago area hospital. Since then, the family filed a lawsuit alleging doctors committed medical malpractice when they mistakenly declared their son dead. As a result, the family claims they experienced severe emotional distress.
On February 18, 2012, eight-year-old Jaylen was taken to Mercy Hospital in Chicago after he went into cardiac arrest. While in the hospital, doctors told the family their son had died. The parents wanted doctors to continue working on Jaylen but they were assured there was nothing left that could be done. The official time of death was called at 9:52 AM.
Shattered by their loss, Jaylen's parents began calling family and making funeral arrangements for their son's death. When the funeral home people came to take Jaylen's body away, the parents asked for a little more time with their son. Just then, they saw him open his eyes. Everybody in the room gasped. Then his eyes closed. As his eyes continued periodically flicker open and closed, the parents begged hospital staff to do something but they told he was dead and these movements were normal side effects of the medicine given earlier. Hours later, the medical staff decided to run a cardiac ultrasound. At 2:35 PM, doctors received the results. To their shock, the test showed Jaylen did have a heart beat--that Jaylen was in fact alive.
According to a hospital spokesperson, Jaylen had arrived at the hospital suffering from full cardiac arrest. The spokesperson contends doctors followed protocol when they performed extensive resuscitative efforts before declaring Jaylen dead after he did not immediately regain a pulse and had no discernible heartbeat. After his heart beat was discovered nearly five hours after being declared dead, Jaylen was transferred from Mercy Hospital to Comer Children's Hospital.
The family's lawsuit is not based on traditional medical malpractice. Instead, the lawsuit is alleges negligent infliction of emotional distress. That is, the parents claim the hospital's error in mistakenly declaring their son dead caused the parents to experience severe emotional distress. In order to maintain such a theory, it seems the family must prove doctors deviated from the standard of care in wrongly declaring their son dead--but they don't need to prove that deviation caused their son harm. Whether the parents later decide to bring a traditional medical negligence lawsuit alleging delayed treatment caused their son physical harm remains to be seen.
NBC News, Lawsuit Alleges Doctors Mistakenly Declared Boy Dead, October 19, 2012.
Associated Press, Chicago Boy Mistakenly Declared Dead, Lawsuit Alleges, October 21, 2012.