Visitor Question

Suffocated in ICU…

Submitted By: KC (Texas)

My mom recently passed away in an ICU (Intensive Care Unit) in Dallas. She was awaiting a liver transplant. My mom was a fighter and was staying as strong as possible. A few days before her death she threw up a large amount of what looked like blood. The doctors put a scope down her throat and found several ulcers which they banded.

I don’t understand why they didn’t already know about the ulcers because they’d done a scope about four days before all this took place. Anyway, three days after the second scope, I was told in the morning that my mom was well and may be moved out of the ICU and back up to the transplant floor. Later that day I got a phone call and was told that my mom had died.

They said she was sleeping and had thrown up and choked and died, they resuscitated her but she was barely hanging on. Her pulse and blood pressure was almost null. The doctor told my dad that if she survived she would be brain dead as she was gone for 7 minutes before they were able to revive her.

I have many questions about all this… Where were the nurses when she choked? Why didn’t they already know about the ulcers? Mostly I want to know why they put liver disease as cause of death on her death certificate?

Me and the rest of my family don’t think this is right. Liver disease did not kill her, she vomited and (in the words of the nurse) asphyxiated. So shouldn’t it be an accident? Or negligence? Or wrongful death? I thought the point of an ICU is so patients have 24hr nurse supervision? Am I wrong? Thanks for any information you can give.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear KC,

Your questions are valid ones. You have several ways of determining the answers to them…

You can ask to speak with your mother’s primary physician. Her physician should be able to answer most of the medical questions you have posed.

The next manner in which you might ascertain the answers is to consult with a medical malpractice attorney.

There are several types of personal injury attorneys. A select few are board certified in their field, and even fewer specialize in medical malpractice law.

Medical malpractice attorneys are able to ascertain the answers to almost all the questions you may want answered. Whereas you or your mother’s primary physician might be able to learn a modicum of information from the hospital, you can be confident a medical malpractice attorney, through subpoena power, will be able to learn everything about anything related to your mother’s treatment.

Medical malpractice attorneys will not charge you for an initial office consultation. Take advantage of that practice and sit down with several of these attorneys. Once you learn all your options you will be in a much better position to determine which path to take.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: January 14, 2012

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