The family of former Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) is planning a lawsuit over what they describe as negligent care that led to her death earlier this week.
Attorneys representing Johnson’s family sent letters on Thursday notifying the Baylor Scott & White Health System and the Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation in Dallas that the family intends to file a lawsuit claiming “medical negligence resulting in the wrongful death” of Johnson.
A press release from the attorneys states that Johnson was in the rehabilitation center for treatment after undergoing a spinal surgery earlier that month. The legal team is arguing that as a result of the alleged negligence, Johnson developed an infection that the lawyers argue resulted in her death.
Johnson, who served in Congress for three decades, died on Dec. 31 at the age of 89.
According to a death certificate uploaded by the family’s legal team, Johnson died of osteomyelitis of lumbar spine. According to the Cleveland Clinic, osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone that develops through bacteria or fungi.
Legal representatives for the family said the son of the late congresswoman, Kirk Johnson, was visiting his mother on Sept. 21at the Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation when he allegedly found her “lying in her own feces and urine,” according to a press release.
Kirk Johnson said in a statement that he was “shocked about the careless disregard for my mother’s care and wellbeing” at the rehabilitation center.
The attorneys’ release alleges that when Kirk Johnson visited his mother that day, the former lawmaker was repeatedly pushing the call button for help but that no one had responded.
Kirk Johnson then located David Smith, the CEO of the rehabilitation center, and brought him to the lawmaker’s room, the release said. When they arrived, the release said, a nurse and staff were “cleaning up the feces.”
According to the release, Smith allegedly said “this shouldn’t have happened” at the time. The attorneys allege
s that there was “no mention of what happened” in the medical records from the rehabilitation center.
Baylor Scott & White Health in a statement said the lawmaker “was a longtime friend and champion in the communities we serve—she is an inspiration to all. We are committed to working directly with the Congresswoman’s family members and their counsel. Out of respect for patient privacy, we must limit our comments.”
Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation is an affiliate or subsidiary of the Select Medical Corporation, according to its website. Select Medical Corporation declined to comment on the notices sent.
“Out of respect for patient privacy, we have no comment at this time,” Select Medical said in a statement to The Hill.
The release from the law firm representing the Johnson family says the lawmaker was referred to the rehabilitation center by her orthopedic surgeon after having back surgery in September.
It quotes the lawmaker’s orthopedic surgeon as reporting “some post op complications including when the patient went to rehab post op and on the 4th day, the patient was found in bed sitting in her own feces, which was not being cleaned up.”
The surgeon said, according to the release, that Johnson “began having copious purulent drainage from the low lumbar incision” three days after this incident.
The release said that lab test results showed “organisms directly related to feces” from the wound.
“The laboratory reports leave no doubt that the infection that killed Former Congresswoman Johnson was caused by the failure of the staff at Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation to properly care for Mrs. Johnson and allowing her to have laid in her own feces,” Les Weisbrod, the family’s attorney, said in the press release.
Weisbrod said that the late lawmaker asked him “to pursue this case for her weeks before she passed.”
“It is abhorrent that Former Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, or any patient, could be mistreated and left unattended by the nursing staff at Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation. As this lawsuit moves through the Texas legal system, we will be fighting for justice for the Johnson family,” Weisbrod said.
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