A state law that hasn’t changed since 1975 caps compensation for families harmed by medical negligence. The limits apply to lost quality of life, even if a patient loses a leg, a child, or is disabled for life. Click on the picture of the map to find patients by the State Senate Districts they live in.
Charles Senior moved to California with a music career in mind. He started working at Sony as a supervisor in private security with the intention of being discovered. He was a singer but felt his passion was in writing. Charles wrote a couple of hit songs, but without representation things did not go as he had hoped. He took his experience in physical security and opened his own security business. He and his wife also owned and ran Katherine’s, a Thai restaurant, in Downtown Los Angeles for decades. Charles was forced to close his business when he became disabled due to medical negligence.
Charles went to the ER after having an allergic reaction to medication. While his medication allergies were well documented in his medical record, and he told each new doctor of these allergies, they dismissed his concerns and kept pumping him full of medicine. As he was shuffled between various providers, each new prescription worsened Charles’s condition until he developed shortness of breath, bumps on the roof of his mouth, chest, and stomach, and his tongue turned black. Each provider failed to check his medical records to verify his allergies, and instead came to various incorrect diagnoses, including pneumonia, asthma, and bronchitis. Each new doctor’s treatment of Charles relied on these false diagnoses, so they continued to give Charles medication that placed him in a vicious cycle of dangerous allergic reactions.
With each day, Charles’ condition worsened. He went back to the emergency room where he told the doctor that the medication he was being prescribed was making him far sicker. That provider ordered breathing treatments with medication similar to prednisone. Again, the medication worsened his condition. Charles played football and used to box, but he felt like these complications were taking him down. Five hours after being sent home, Charles lost consciousness. Back in the hospital, he was prescribed more medication but this time he didn’t take it. Charles told his wife, “I think they are going to kill me.” His labs showed that he had liver and kidney damage and extreme nerve damage. A once very healthy man became incredibly sick in a matter of a few hospital visits.
Charles, in total, saw seven different doctors. He trusted them, but each prescribed medication made his condition worse. While he was struggling with the resulting kidney disease, severe nerve damage, and loss of his voice, a complication – the inability to void his bladder, forced Charles back to the emergency room. Inconceivably, given the repeated medication errors and misdiagnoses he had already endured, Charles suffered his most horrific experience of harm and neglect in the course of this hospital visit.
The hospital sent Charles a urologist to deal with his inability to urinate. He arrived with not one, but five, catheters, and could not insert the catheters correctly. Charles was left bleeding profusely from his groin after the urologist punctured his penis with the catheters five times. Charles’ hospital gown was bloodied, and the floor was covered in blood. When a urinal he was brought filled with blood, the nurse would simply dump it down the sink and give him another. The bleeding would not stop, and no one was helping him. Charles ultimately walked with the blood-filled urinal over to a security camera outside of the emergency room in a desperate attempt to get someone’s attention. He wanted to leave an image of his bloodied self on the hospital security camera in case something should happen to him. A different urologist finally came to treat him and discovered the severe damage to the inside of his groin, but it was too late. The damage was irreparable.
Charles could no longer work or run his business. After his wife had a stroke that left her unable to work as well, they were forced to close their businesses. Charles needed speech therapy and continued medical care for nerve damage. He was left with lung damage and serious breathing issues. He can no longer sit in a chair for any amount of time without experiencing intolerable pain. Now permanently disabled and in need of help, Charles sought legal counsel, but his case was turned down by multiple lawyers. Due to the nearly 50 year-old cap on medical negligence, no lawyer would take his case and he had to represent himself. He is not a trained lawyer and lost his case. The effects of the $250,000 cap on compensation for a patient’s pain and suffering, no matter how extreme the trauma, are immeasurable in Charles’s case.
Charles never imagined that he could experience a sentinel event in a hospital. He now finds himself not only fighting for his own health but for the health and wellbeing of all Californians. Charles is dedicated to the fight to adjust the cap in order to give other Californians the accountability that he was denied. He is supporting the Fairness for Injured Patients Act on the November 2022 ballot in California.
Californians will have the chance to vote on the Fairness for Injured Patients Act on the November 2022 ballot. The Fairness Act would update California’s medical malpractice damage cap for nearly 50 years of inflation, and allow judges and juries to decide fair compensation in cases involving catastrophic injury or death. Learn more about this campaign for patient safety.
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