A story in yesterday's Washington Post reported that medical tests showed that marijuana and another drug were present in the body of 9-year-old Yusef Camp, who died in September, 1980, after spending four months in a coma at D.C. General Hospital. Subsequent and more extensive tests, however, reversed the initial report and determined that when the boy was admitted to the hospital, no traces of any drugs were in his system. Camp's parents earlier this week were awarded $210,000 in damages by a jury after they sued the hospital for negligence.
A D.C. Superior Court jury has ordered D.C. General Hospital to pay $210,000 in damages to the parents of a 9-year-old boy who, before he died in 1980, lingered comatose in the hospital while D.C. government attorneys attempted to get a court ruling on the legal definition of death.
The boy, Yusef Camp, was taken to the hospital on May 4, 1980, after he had ingested an unknown quantity of drugs. Doctors pumped out the contents of his stomach and found a pickle, some candy, a small quantity of marijuana and possible traces of the hallucinogenic drug PCP. The source of the drugs was never determined.
Ronald and Beverly Camp, the boy's parents, sued the hospital for negligence before the boy died. In the suit, they said their son was hallucinating and at times comatose when he was admitted, but that the hospital failed to properly monitor his condition. They contended that their son's breathing stopped the next day after he had vomited and that, by the time his breathing was restored, he had suffered irreversible brain damage.
The boy died in September 1980 of pneumonia and after a prolonged coma. His death, the lawsuit asserts, was the result of the brain damage he incurred during his first day in the hospital.
City attorneys denied that the hospital had been negligent, and according to court records, argued that all medical treatement was "consistent with standard medical practice."
During the four months before he died, hospital doctors had determined that the boy was "brain dead," meaning that his brain showed no activity, and wanted to take him off life-support systems. His breathing had been sustained by a respirator, but his heart had continued beating on its own.
After his parents refused to authorize discontinuing the treatment, government lawyers asked D.C. Superior Court to declare him dead. City attorneys at the time said the request also was designed to define when a person is legally dead, a definition that was not included in D.C. statutes.
Earlier this year, the statutes were amended so that brain death is now an element of the legal definition of death. The jury's decision Tuesday came after another jury in January had declared itself deadlocked.
The Camps asked for approximately $210,000 in damages under the D.C. wrongful death law, their attorney, Kenneth Shepherd, said yesterday. According to court records, the Camps would have settled the suit for $150,000, but did not reach an agreement with the D.C. Corporation Counsel's Office.
City attorneys could not be reached for comment yesterday.