Lawsuit: Woman died of blood clot after 6-hour ER wait

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. (AP) - The parents of a 25-year-old graduate student have filed a $2 million wrongful death lawsuit against PeaceHealth hospital group and its Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend.

In the recent court filing, Thom and Ann Barr contend that a long wait to see an emergency room doctor proved fatal for their daughter, Martha Barr. The lawsuit says the young woman died from a blood clot in the main artery of her lung after waiting nearly six hours to see a doctor.

A spokesman for the Springfield, Ore., hospital declined comment, as did Martha Barr's family members and their lawyer.

The Eugene couple allege in the lawsuit that their daughter went to the then-new hospital's emergency room shortly after noon on Dec. 23, 2008.

She was evaluated at the hospital by triage personnel who listed her symptoms as including shortness of breath, anxiety, fatigue, abnormally fast heart and respiration rates and low oxygen saturation. She was classified as a Level 3 on a triage scale of 1-to-5 and told to sit in the waiting room until she was called back for a physician evaluation, the lawsuit says.

A doctor who evaluated her at 6:25 p.m. strongly suspected that the likely cause of her symptoms was pulmonary embolism, a blood clot obstructing the pulmonary artery leading to the lungs, the suit adds. That doctor ordered a CT angiogram to confirm the diagnosis, but it was never performed, according to the complaint, because the young woman's condition worsened rapidly.

At 7:15 p.m. she went into respiratory and cardiac arrest from lack of blood flow and oxygen to her heart. She was pronounced dead at 9:33 p.m., after CPR and life support failed to restore her circulation.

According to an obituary, Martha Barr earned a bachelor's degree in zoology with a minor in chemistry from Oregon State University in 2006.

At the time of her death, she was visiting Eugene from Santa Ana, Calif., where she was living while working on a master's thesis in forensic science.

The lawsuit seeks $500,000 in economic damages, as well as noneconomic damages of $500,000 for the young woman's pain and suffering and $1 million for her parents' loss of their daughter's society, support, services, love and companionship.

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Information from: The Register-Guard