A young musician went into open heart surgery to put in place a valve, but after being placed incorrectly he died from complications.

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Anthony Fossett was a young aspiring musician who was a beloved member of his community.  An alumnus of Youth Radio’s Core and Bridge program, Anthony wanted to be a music producer and hoped to eventually start his own studio.  He was making great strides to achieve this dream attending Merritt College, performing at the Oakland Museum, and helping to produce local rap artists.  That was until medical malpractice cut his life short.

Anthony discovered he was having heart problems and a mitral valve surgery was needed to save his life.  He went in for surgery at Children’s Hospital in Oakland when he was 17.  A day after he was discharged from the hospital he had such a bad reaction to the valve that he was rushed back to the hospital where he stayed for three days to recover.  The doctors finally sent him home with blood thinners and other medications for his heart. Anthony and his mother Regina were assured that he would be fine, but they were not given any explanation for the negative reaction he had to his valve.  

In a follow up conversation with the doctor, Regina was told that Anthony could keep coming back to Children’s until he was 24 for regular checkups and to keep an eye on his heart.  Six months later Children’s Hospital abruptly reversed itself and Regina was told they could no longer provide Anthony with care.  He was transferred to Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley for his primary care going forward.  After his first visit to the new medical center, Regina received a call from her son’s new doctor.   They said his heart was failing and was in severe decline.  This was the first time Regina or Anthony had been informed of any ongoing serious threat to his health. Regina said that Anthony’s new doctor was shocked that they were not informed by Anthony’s previous physician of the condition of his heart.

Anthony’s mother begged them to attempt corrective surgery but the hospital refused and claimed that medications and a new diet would be enough to deal with his condition.  They were told Anthony might need surgery down the line, but for the time being it was not necessary.  But two months later, Anthony suffered a heart attack and died.  Regina believes the valve was failing and there were complications he suffered from the surgery that his doctors at Children’s kept from them.   Under MICRA, compensation in medical negligence cases is based primarily on the income of the person who was killed. Anthony had no dependents and did not make a lot of money, so his life was worth little under the law. Regina attempted to file suit to hold the doctor and his hospital accountable. An attorney took Anthony’s case, but he was forced to withdraw because of the law’s limits on patients’ legal rights. Regina could not find another attorney to take the case and she has never found justice for her son. 

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