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Whistleblower Alleges That Anesthesiologist Hastened Death Of 8-Year-Old Organ Donor

About four years ago, the family of eight-year-old Cole Hartman made the difficult decision to take the boy off of life support. Hartman had gone into cardiac arrest after nearly drowning in the family’s washing machine.

While he wasn’t technically brain dead, physicians at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center’s pediatric intensive care unit informed the family that he “would never recover normal neuro function and … could never awaken.” Based on that information, the family would decide to remove him from life support, and his organs would subsequently be donated.

Fast forward to today, and the family’s decision is part of one of the more bizarre cases that you’ll come across. A coroner’s investigator has alleged that the anesthesiologist assigned to Hartman’s case had given the boy a fatal dose of the opioid fentanyl.

The anesthesiologist’s alleged reasoning for doing such a thing? Since Hartman was an organ donor, that would increase the chances that he would die, and by extension, increase the chances that his organs could be successfully harvested.

As the Los Angeles Times explains, no charges have been brought as of yet, but investigators are poking around to see what’s what.

Attorney Mark Werksman, who is representing the anesthesiologist in question, Dr. Judith Brill, notes that the allegation is “factually wrong and patently offensive,” and that his client’s “only concern was to assure that this child, who had drowned and was never going to recover, would not suffer any pain following the removal of life support.”

LAPD Capt. William Hayes is overseeing the investigation, and he notes that the case is a bit of a head scratcher.

“As you can imagine, this is very complicated,” he said. “We need to clearly understand what was done and the implications of those actions.”

Denise Bertone, a veteran coroner’s investigator who specializes in child deaths, raised concerns at the time of Hartman’s death, and she pressed the issue for several years. She claims that she received backlash as a result of her calls for an investigation, and she has gone ahead to file a whistleblower retaliation suit.

This is an incredibly bizarre case that has raised a ton of eyebrows around the medical community. There’s a ton of questions swirling about, and investigators will have their hands full determining if Bertone’s claims are legitimate, or if she’s just an aggrieved employee.

“It’s generally thought you give enough medication to reassure everyone that the patient is comfortable, but not so much that it is actually the primary cause of death,” noted anesthesiologist Nicholas Sadovnikoff of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

As for Brill, colleagues are shocked at the allegations. For one thing, Brill is noted for being a top professional. Additionally, this is just a bizarre allegation that can be too hard for most folks to fathom.

“This is someone who has really had an exemplary career,” noted Dr. Jean Lake, a pediatric neurologist at Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach. Lake explains that Brill is “just so concerned that her ability, her skills, her intentions would be called into question.”

Source: LA Times
Photo: YouTube

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