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Family Wants Answers in Brevard County Woman’s Death in Psychiatric Clinic

The family of a woman who died in a Brevard County psychiatric facility believes there’s more to her death than they’ve been told, the Orlando Sentinel reported May 5. LaWanda Smith died in 2005 at Circles of Care in Melbourne, where she was being treated for schizophrenia. Officially, her death was caused by a blood clot in her lungs that had traveled from an area of unexplained trauma on her right leg. But a former nurse at the facility alleges that workers allowed Smith to suffer for ten minutes after she collapsed before anyone called 911.

The nurse, Martin Yesowitch, says he was called to help move Smith after she had collapsed. According to official records, she developed trouble breathing after she was given a drug for nausea. When Yesowitch arrived, he found her lying on the floor with a distraught mental health technician. That technician, Megan Lushefski, said she had repeatedly asked Smith’s nurse and others for help, but was ignored. After about ten minutes, they called Yesowitch for help. He took Smith’s pulse and immediately called for emergency help, a call he says was heard by several nearby health care professionals. Unfortunately, it was too late; Smith was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The next day, Yesowitch claims, he was instructed by supervisors not to say anything. He defied that instruction by reporting the death to the county Medical Examiner’s Office, the Florida Department of Health, the Agency for Health Care Management and, eventually, the Smith family. The two health care agencies are investigating the incident, but the Brevard County State’s Attorney’s office has closed its investigation, saying evidence did not support a criminal charge. The Smiths also may not pursue a South Florida medical malpractice lawsuit, because only spouses, children and dependents may file such a claim for wrongful death in Florida, and LaWanda Smith was single. With their legal options limited, the Smiths are hoping that state agencies will reveal the full story and take any appropriate disciplinary action.

A medical malpractice lawsuit is supposed to help families in situations like this, where authorities either cannot or will not act. Smith’s death, unfortunately, falls into a huge loophole that removes legal liability for medical professionals who negligently cause the deaths of unmarried adults with no children, or whose children are adults themselves. If state agencies take no action against the workers who allegedly let Smith die, those workers may be left with no accountability for any crime or unprofessional conduct.

Families of medical malpractice victims in Florida who do qualify may file a Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice lawsuit against the medical professionals whose negligence caused a death. Spouses and children under age 25 of medical malpractice victims may claim the cost of the shoddy medical care and funeral costs, as well as compensation for the loss of the victim’s income and their own grief, pain and loss of companionship.

If your family has suffered a death like this, our law firm, Cohn, Smith & Cohn, can help. To tell one of our Coral Springs medical malpractice lawyers about your case and learn more about how we can help, please contact us online or call (954) 431-8100 today for a free, confidential consultation.

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