Greenwich Time

Lawsuit: Routine procedure would have saved woman who died after childbirth

- By Ethan Fry

An Oxford man whose wife died after giving birth at Danbury Hospital in 2020 has filed a lawsuit against the medical profession­als that treated her in the final weeks of her pregnancy, claiming that a chest X-ray she was referred for — and didn’t receive — five weeks prior would have revealed an undiagnose­d 15.5-centimeter, or 6.1-inch tumor that led to her death.

The lawsuit, filed in October in state Superior Court in Milford, states a pulmonolog­ist who 41year-old Lisa Sullivan saw for chest pain and respirator­y issues directed her to a PhysicianO­ne Urgent Care in Southbury for a chest X-ray on May 15, 2020.

At that point, Sullivan, who was a dental assistant, was 35 weeks pregnant, and had been complainin­g of shortness of breath, chest pain and cough for months, the lawsuit alleges.

But after seeing a physician’s assistant at the urgent care, the lawsuit claims the business diagnosed her with COVID-19 and cartilage inflammati­on — but did not perform the chest X-ray.

Three days later, the lawsuit states, the urgent care “communicat­ed to Lisa Sullivan that the COVID-19 test had come back negative,” but did not take any other action.

The next month, Sullivan commenced a planned induction to give birth at Danbury Hospital — where she saw an internal medicine consultant due to “concerning” vital signs and symptoms. The lawsuit states the doctor listed multiple possibilit­ies and recommende­d a chest Xray and echocardio­gram— but neither was performed.

Sullivan delivered her baby via Cesarean-section on June 10, and began going downhill soon after, suffering cardiac arrest and brain damage from a lack of oxygen, according to the lawsuit. She died June 15, 2020, after which the tumor — a 15.5-centimeter large B-cell lymphoma — was found, the lawsuit states.

The growth “would have been apparent on a standard chest X-ray” and measures to make the birth safer could have been put in place, according to the lawsuit, which seeks unspecifie­d damages.

“Had this mediastina­l mass been diagnosed earlier, precaution­s would have been taken during delivery to make it more likely than not that Lisa Sullivan survived,” the lawsuit states. “Had this mediastina­l mass been diagnosed earlier, it’s more likely than not the B-Cell lymphomas would have responded to chemothera­py and Lisa Sullivan would have lived a full life.”

The lawsuit, filed by Lisa’s husband, Andrew, lists PhysicianO­ne Urgent Care and the physician assistant working there as defendants, as well as Nuvance Health, which owns Danbury Hospital, and Candlewood Women’s Health Center, the OBGYN practice at which Sullivan was a patient while pregnant.

The lawsuit included, per state law, preliminar­y “good faith” opinions from two doctors who said the defendants deviated from the standard of care in treating Sullivan, based on their review of records in the case and “within a reasonable degree of medical certainty.”

In a prepared statement, a lawyer representi­ng Candlewood declined to comment on the specific allegation­s made in the lawsuit.

“We sympathize with Mr. Sullivan’s grief over the loss of his wife and appreciate that bringing this claim is very emotional for all parties involved,” the attorney, M. Karen Noble, said. “Given the complexity of this matter, we are not prepared to make any additional statements.”

The attorney who filed the lawsuit on Sullivan’s behalf did not return messages seeking comment Monday, nor did lawyers representi­ng the other defendants named in the lawsuit, who have not yet responded formally in court.

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