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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Smart Medicine, Expert Care?

    Stony Brook University Hospital, the largest tertiary care center in Suffolk County, is currently under fire from the State Department of Health for allegedly falling short on its promise to deliver effective pediatric care.’

    The investigation came about with the death of an 11-month-old girl,’ Amee Martin, of Mastic. Hospital spokesperson Lauren Sheprow confirmed that Amee died in the operating room on May 13.’

    Both the Suffolk county medical examiner’s office and the Department of Health declined to comment, citing federal medical privacy laws. However, there have been allegations of medical overdose. Amee’s mother, Judee Martin, was told by the Hospital that Amee received an undiluted dose of 27-fold papaverine, a drug that expands blood vessels.

    Stony Brook Hospital has a history of medical overdose. Petra Fiel, a premature 8-day-old infant in the neonatal unit, suffered from respiratory distress. In August 1995, she was given a 10-fold overdose of morphine. In February 2002 there was the death of’ 6-day-old Gianni Vargas. His death was a result of a 10-fold overdose of potassium chloride.

    Beyond instances of overdose, further deaths plague Stony Brook’s recent history in pediatric care.’ In September 2003, ‘Baby Doe’ died due to a heart illness after cardiac surgery. On June 26, 7-year-old Tyler Poole, of West Islip, died of tachycardia during routine adenoid surgery. Poole suffered from Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy. According to the Health Department, Poole died because the Hospital relied on outdated test results to assess his heart and lung functions.

    The latest case under investigation is of a premature infant at 23 weeks, who weighed about one pound. The infant suffered from a heart defect and was scheduled to be operated on by Dr. Jan Quaegebeur, from the New York Presbyterian Hospital. Because he was unavailable for the surgery, it was rescheduled to be performed by an adult cardiac surgeon. Eventually the surgery was canceled because of concerns over the pediatric experience of the surgeon. The infant died waiting for treatment.

    Quaegebeur is a specialized doctor hired by the Hospital on a contract. The contract requires him to come to the University Hospital once a week. Dr. Irvin Krukenkamp, Associate Dean for Cardiothoracic Academic Affairs said that these doctors ‘don’t come back’ and ‘the chain or continuity of care is broken.’ He later mentioned, ‘The surgeon has an obligation to see patients in a pre-op to explain risks. [The surgeon on contract] does that. Then the surgeon does the operation, but does not follow-up every day.’

    Krukenkamp raised concerns about this in 2003. He said, at that time, ‘the leadership tried to fire me instead of dealing with the problem, which is a violation of the first amendment.’ Twenty-one months later, Krukenkamp received a $3.3 million settlement. University officials denied ‘wrongful conduct or liability or violation of any federal, state or local statute, ordinance or law… whatsoever.” Krukenkamp has been asked to resign from his role effective 2007.

    David Raimondo, the lawyer who handled the Gianni Vargas case, said that the Surgery Unit has exhibited ‘many instances of departure from standard care, such as medical students attending to patients without physician approval.’ Mr. Raimondo is currently investigating two similar malpractice suits. He will be filing claims in two weeks.

    The State claimed $54,000, the maximum possible, for Gianni’s death.’

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