Aspen Adams was a happy, healthy, energetic baby. But when she was 21 months old, her mother Leah discovered a lump on her belly.
She took Aspen to the doctor the next day, a Monday, and Aspen was quickly sent to the hospital for a CT-scan. By Tuesday morning they knew that Aspen had liver cancer.
Later that morning, Aspen was given anesthesia for an MRI, which made her lethargic and disoriented for the remainder of the day. This made her mother nervous since Aspen was scheduled to have a biopsy the next day. A registered nurse, Leah was worried about what too much anesthesia would do to her tiny daughter. She and the nurses were concerned that Aspen wasn’t ready to go into surgery, but the doctor insisted that they move forward with the biopsy.
When Aspen came out of the operating room, she seemed okay. The procedure seemed to have gone smoothly. But the next day her body was swollen, her urine turned brown, and she was still lethargic.
Medical staff reassured Leah that her daughter was fine and told her the medication was probably the cause of the brown urine.
However, later that day, Aspen’s vital signs plummeted and she passed away. She was killed by a drug overdose, having been given three successive doses of anesthesia within a window of less than 48 hours – before the MRI, during the biopsy, and after the biopsy.
Aspen would have survived the liver cancer after its removal, but her life was cut short by the brazen decision to go ahead with a non-emergency procedure despite overwhelming risk. Experts later confirmed with Leah that her daughter had been given far above the recommended dose of anesthesia for a toddler.
Aspen’s parents were unable to hold anyone accountable for her death, because of a California’s 46-year-old cap on damages in medical malpractice cases. Lawyers cannot afford to take cases like Aspen’s because in the eyes of the 1975 law, children’s lives are worth very little. It would cost as much to bring this case as a lawyer could possibly recover.
Leah never wants another family to lose a child like hers did.