Lawsuit claims baby suffers brain damage despite repeated visits to ER

Jim Day
Published on March 9, 2016

Melissa Driscoll with her daughter Emma who suffers severe brain damage. Driscoll and her fiancé Danny Roche, pictured here holding Emma, are suing four ER doctors and the province for alleged negligent treatment of their daughter at the QEH in 2011.

©Guardian photo

Family seeking cost of for care against four doctors, province, but three doctors my soon be dropped from case

Three doctors may be removed from a lawsuit that claims a baby suffered brain damage as a result of negligent medical treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown.

Raymond Wagner, the lawyer representing the family of Emma Roche, expects Dr. Kate Ellis-Ghiz, Dr. Pauline Champion and Dr. Mitchell Zelman to be dropped from the suit.

The suit, he adds, will continue against Dr. Peter Noonan and the province.

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Wagner says costs are being sought to care for the now five-year-old girl who needs significant round-the-clock care. Damages for losses in quality of life are also being pursued.

The statement of claim, filed in June 2012, claims Emma was exposed to a sick child in January 2011. She was eight months old at the time.

According to the claim, after the child fell ill, Melissa Driscoll took her baby to the emergency room at the QEH. Emma was diagnosed with a fever and upper respiratory infection and the doctor on call told Driscoll to administer Advil and Tylenol and sent them home.

The next evening, Driscoll returned to the ER with Emma, as the baby's cough and coarse breathing persisted.

Driscoll alleges the doctor on call that night diagnosed Emma with influenza. The doctor requested a consult from the pediatrician on call, who later confirmed the influenza diagnosis. Emma was again discharged.

Less than two hours later, Driscoll returned to the hospital, claiming her daughter's condition had worsened. The statement of claim says 40 minutes after that, Emma became pale and her lips turned blue. She was diagnosed by the doctor on call at this time with severe croup and was administered a mask.

Her respiratory distress continued, however, and a few hours later her heart stopped. It took about 18 minutes to revive her, court documents claim.

She was airlifted to the IWK in Halifax. She was later diagnosed with severe and irreversible brain damage.

The four doctors involved in the lawsuit say there weren't negligent when they treated her.

The statements of defence for all the doctors said they informed the plaintiffs of the risk associated with any treatments or decisions, to which they gave informed consent.

The Government of P.E.I. and Health P.E.I., as the operator of the QEH, has insurance through a private insurer, a spokeswoman with Health P.E.I. informed The Guardian.

"This litigation is under the control and direction of the private insurer and its legal counsel,'' the spokeswoman said in an email.

"The Government of P.E.I. and Health P.E.I. will not be commenting on this matter further as it is before the courts.''

The case is next scheduled before the P.E.I. Supreme Court on May 3.

Wagner estimates a trial will begin in six months to a year.