In 2016, a woman suffering a severe asthma attack collapsed only feet away from a locked door leading to a Massachusetts emergency room. She later died of what would normally be an easily treatable condition.
This week, the woman's widow received an in-person apology for the hospital's lapse from the facility's parent company's chief executive officer. The Cambridge Health Alliance CEO met with the man at The Boston Globe's headquarters for two hours. He expressed that he was "very sorry" for what took place in the early morning hours of on Sept. 16, 2016.
Events unfolded when the wife experienced an asthma attack. She proceeded on foot to the ER at Somerville Hospital. The first door she approached was locked. The locked door had instructions posted on it that patients should instead use an alternate entrance. However, likely due to distress from her condition, she was incapable of interpreting or following those posted instructions.
She instead sat on a nearby bench and dialed 911. She told the 911 operator that she couldn't get into the ER and was dying.
Inside the hospital, one nurse spent a dozen seconds looking for her but failed to find her. Eventually, the asthmatic woman was discovered collapsed on the bench by a fireman. She was just 29 feet away from the hospital's main entrance.
Help arrived too late to save her. Within days, she was pronounced dead at another local hospital.
The CEO joined Somerville Hospital's Chief Medical Officer (CMO) at the meeting and told the widow that he understood "the horrible pain that this . . . inflicted upon [him]."
He added that it was "hard to continue saying we failed, but we did fail."
The widowed man accepted the apology but expressed dissatisfaction with the CEO's response. In an email to a news agency, he stated that "[t]he mistakes that led to [his wife's] death were so unnecessary. For the hospital to own up to them couldn't have been more necessary."
At present, the husband expressed no plans to file a lawsuit in his wife's death.
Others in similar circumstances may choose to take legal action after they lose a family member due to a hospital's negligent actions.