Shawn Washington II was a mentor to his siblings and summer campers, a talented photographer and musician, and an expecting father. He lived with his mother and grandparents to help take care of them and supported his mother financially. A quiet leader, he was beloved within his community.
When Shawn came down with flu-like symptoms in April 2019, his family figured he would quickly recover. But a few weeks later, after trips to multiple doctors, he had trouble breathing and began coughing up blood. He was rushed to the hospital but was left in the ER, waiting for test results and treatment, all night long. At intake, he was asked multiple times about his insurance status, and about whether he was HIV positive or used needles. There was no urgency to treat him. Over seven hours he coughed up bagfuls of blood and requested intubation because he could not breathe. In the early morning the next day, his sister Sharon overheard medical staff agree to put off his intubation because they knew their shift break was coming up.
By the time Shawn was intubated, he was already going into cardiac arrest. Staff performed CPR, but it was too late. Shawn passed away, leaving behind his unborn daughter, fiancé, and family to reckon with his loss.
Sharon wants justice and accountability for her brother’s death. After being turned away by several lawyers, she was able to convince the NAACP to help but unfortunately, it was a dead end. Only then did she learn about a California law from 1975 that capped compensation for the death of a family member due to medical negligence.
Then, Sharon filed a complaint with the Medical Board of California. She thought that, even if they were blocked from the courts, state regulators would acknowledge her brother’s death and act to protect other patients from harm. But she received a form letter shortly after that said “the Board is unable to meet the burden of proof required to pursue administrative action.” The complaint was closed.
Sharon wants a Medical Board that will hold medical providers accountable for negligence that causes tragedies. She fights for reform in honor of her brother.