Naturopathic, Negligence Asthma, Wrongful Death

Result: $400,000

A 16-year-old who died of an acute asthma attack within two hours of treating with a naturopathic physician who was her primary care provider. On the morning of July 25, 2001, Jane Doe felt poorly and experienced symptoms of asthma. She woke at about 11:30 a.m. and used her inhaler and nebulizer, but her symptoms did not improve. Mother Doe realized that her daughters’ condition was urgent enough to call the Doe Naturopathic Clinic for advice and treatment, but did not believe the condition was life-threatening. Mother Doe called and got an answering machine so she left a message stating that this was an urgent situation and she needed to be called back right away. Minutes later, while Mother Doe was looking for telephone numbers of other health care providers, Doe Naturopath’s 21-year-old receptionist, returned the telephone call and told her to bring her daughter in right away so that Doe Naturopath would “fit her in” to her schedule. Defendants contended that they told Mother Doe to go directly to the emergency room, and that they only agreed to treat Jane Doe for acute asthma after she and her mother refused to seek traditional medical care.

Mother Doe and Jane Doe arrived at the Doe Naturopathic Clinic at about 3:00 p.m. on July 25, 2001. Instead of seeing Dr. Doe Naturopath, the mother and daughter were directed to the care of a licensed acupuncturist, defendant Doe Acupuncturist, who began an acupuncture treatment for acute asthma. Doe acupuncturist listened to Jane Doe’s breathing “from about a foot-and-a-half away,” and he could hear “rumbling” in the chest and “wheezing.” The acupuncturist documented his assessment as “Wind Heat,” and applied acupuncture needles to “meridian points,” which were meant to improve Jane Doe’s lung function.

Twenty-minutes into the acupuncture treatment, the treatment was interrupted because the naturopathic physician came into the examination room to treat Jane Doe’s acute asthma. Defendant Doe naturopathic physician took a very limited history, did not adequately examine Jane Doe, but did chart that she was having “an acute asthma attack.” Instead, of useful treatment, Doe Naturopath gave Jane Doe an IM (intramuscular injection) of vitamin B-12, and sold her a liquid “asthma tincture” medication of herbs, including “Ma-Huang” (a pseudoephedrine), which the patient took in her office. The defendant naturopathic physician charted that Jane Doe should go to the “ER if still problematic.” However, all of the defendants’ chart notes were suspected of being altered after the patient’s death.

With a false sense of security gained from the defendants’ care and advice, Mother Doe drove her daughter back to their home, assuming she would get better over time as the naturopathic physician told them. But, by 5:20 p.m., Jane Doe’s condition was not improving so her father, who was now home from work, called Group Health Hospital and was told that he could take his daughter to Group Health Hospital in Redmond, which was over a 30-minute drive away or he could call Evergreen Hospital, which was closer to their home. Father Doe called Evergreen Hospital and was told that he could bring his daughter to an urgent care facility that was even closer because it was between his home and Evergreen Hospital. At that time, no one realized Jane Doe was in a life-threatening situation, so her father drove her to the urgent care clinic for treatment of her acute asthma.

As Father Doe drove his daughter to the Urgent Care Clinic, she continued having trouble breathing. As he was almost to the parking lot entrance of the urgent care clinic, she lost consciousness. Frantically, Father Doe took his daughter inside the Urgent Care Clinic where emergency resuscitative efforts were provided but Jane Doe could not be revived and she died at about 6:00 p.m. An autopsy determined that Jane Doe died of “status asthmaticus” (acute asthma non-responsive to conventional treatment).