A U.S. District Court jury yesterday awarded $197,000 to the husband and 13-year-old son of a Northwest Washington woman who died at the Washington Hospital Center in 1977 following surgery for pregnancy complications.
The jury of three men and three women deliberated six hours before returning its verdict against the hospital center and the Associated Anesthesiologists Service. The service employed the anesthesiologist who treated the woman at the hospital, according to court records.
James Clemons and his son, Timmy, who now live near Raleigh, N.C., also had sued the gynecologist who treated Ruth Ann Clemons, but the jury cleared him of liability for her death.
According to court records, Clemons, then 35-years-old, visited the gynecologist in 1977 because she suspected that she might be pregnant. After tests did not reveal the pregnancy, the doctor admitted Clemons to the hospital center where she underwent a minor surgical procedure called a dilation and curretage, court records said.
Seven hours after she left the hospital, Clemons returned complaining of severe abdominal pain, the records said. The following morning, after treatment with medication, Clemons aborted an 18-week-old fetus, the records said. The doctor concluded at the time that the fetus had been dead for 10 days, the records said.
The next day, after Clemons condition improved, the same surgical procedure was performed again, according to court papers. Anesthesia was administered during the surgery by Dr. Tze-Duen Chan, an employe of the Anesthesiologists Service, the records said.
The family contended that Chan failed to properly monitor Clemon's heart rate and should have inserted a tube in her throat to aid her breathing, the records said. The rules and regulations of the hospital center controls the actions of the anesthesiologists from the service, according to court records.
Clemons went into a coma and died six days after the second procedure, according to court records.
The anesthesiologist service denied any negligence on Chan's part and contended in court papers that Clemons went into cardiac arrest during the procedure, brought on by her physical condition at the time.
The four-week-long medical malpractice trial was heard before Judge Joyce Hens Green. Specifically, the jury awarded $135,000 to Timmy Clemons and $40,000 to James Clemons and $22,000 more to the family for Ruth Clemons' death.