Olivia Cull was born with a defect that left one side of her heart smaller than the other. She had surgery to correct it as a baby but needed a second operation as a 17-year-old senior in high school. During a catheterization procedure to prepare for that second operation, there was an “incident” as Olivia’s mother, Joy, was told, that left Olivia without oxygen for 40 seconds.
Olivia never regained consciousness, and two weeks later she died after her parents gave the hospital permission to remove her breathing tube.
An autopsy determined Olivia suffered brain damage as a result of a heart attack she had at the end of catheterization. An investigation by the state Department of Public Health found a postdoctoral fellow who treated Olivia removed her catheters without a doctor’s supervision and a second fellow who treated Olivia had not been cleared to treat patients.
But since MICRA values the life of a child at just $250,000, that was all the compensation her parents could receive for her death. They found a law firm to take their case on a pro-bono basis despite the hefty costs of preparing for medical malpractice trials, including fees for expert witnesses and other professionals to make the case.
More importantly, Olivia’s parents felt that if the hospital had been at risk of greater financial liability, it would have been forced to do more to reveal errors and improve procedures.