He was the one who consoled countless victims of crime and disaster, a fire and police chaplain well known in San Diego. Even after a long struggle with diabetes meant Rabbi Aaron Gottesman lost his legs to amputation, the unsinkable chaplain would show up at fires, crime scenes, and disasters to console those in grief from his wheelchair.
It all came to an end in 2005, as the man who took care of victims became a victim himself, a victim of medical negligence. Gottesman awoke in pain one Saturday morning. At the ER, a doctor discharged him, saying it was nearly a urinary tract infection. In fact, a lethal infection was raging through his body. Lab results done over the weekend would show it, but the lab never alerted Gottesman or his family of the looming threat. The single call a lab tech made was to the rabbi’s empty office.
By the time he returned to the hospital a day later, it was too late. Gottesman died at age 63.
His grieving family sought accountability for the hospital’s cavalier treatment, but instead ran headlong into California’s non-economic damage cap for medical malpractice. “I had no idea,” his daughter said, “that since the 1970’s a person’s life according the State of California is only worth $250,000.”