The mother of a 23-year-old man who died at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut last year has filed a lawsuit against the facility for allegedly leaving her son in an ambulance bay untreated for multiple hours.
William (Billy) Miller died in May 2021 after he was taken to the hospital for drug toxicity monitoring. His mother, Tina Darnsteadt, claims that hospital staff left him alone for more than seven hours and didn’t notice when he went into cardiac arrest.
“They untreated him to death,” Tina Darnsteadt told The Connecticut Post.
The family’s lawyer, Sean McElligott, said via The Connecticut Post that “this young man’s death was completely avoidable.”
“The hospital failed to provide him with the most basic medical care. This should never happen,” McElligott said. “Billy’s death was tragic and his family and loved ones are devastated by the utter lack of care provided at the hospital. I will work hard to make sure nothing like this happens to another family.”
According to the lawsuit, on May 10, 2021, Miller ingested a white powder that he suspected “had been laced with fentanyl,” while at a gathering with friends at the Peter’s Rock Association Park in East Haven.
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An ambulance responded to an emergency call at approximately 6:25 p.m. that evening and found Miller already being treated by firefighters, who administered three milligrams of naloxone to halt fentanyl toxicity. At the time the ambulance arrived, Miller was “walking, talking and alert,” the lawsuit reads.
He was transported to the Yale-New Haven Hospital emergency department for monitoring to prevent toxicity recurrence. While en route, Miller called his mother and explained what happened. He said he was feeling OK, the suit reads.
The lawsuit said Miller arrived at the hospital at 7:13 p.m. According to security video that was later obtained by the family, he was left there on his own between 7:15 p.m. and 1:56 a.m. the next morning.
Yale-New Haven staff put Miller on a stretcher in the ambulance bay, where he remained with no medical supervision. At one point, security footage allegedly showed Miller getting up to use the bathroom, grabbing a snack from the vending machine, and communicating with his mother on his cellphone.
According to the lawsuit, the security video later showed Miller falling asleep — with “many medical providers” walking by him without checking to see if he was all right.
At 1:56 a.m., a nurse checked on Miller for the first time in seven hours and found him without a pulse.
“He is not breathing. His skin is a blue-gray colour. His pupils are fixed and dilated. He has been in full cardiac arrest for an unknown period of time,” the lawsuit reads.
Miller was transferred to critical care, according to NBC News, but he never recovered significant brain activity. Miller was officially declared dead the next day.
“Subsequent labs and imaging showed severe anoxic brain injury secondary to prolonged lack of oxygen from cardiopulmonary arrest,” the lawsuit continues. “The Yale Defendants were negligent in that they failed to exercise the degree of care, skill and diligence required under similar circumstances.”
Darnsteadt said she couldn’t visit her son in the hospital because of COVID-19 protocols at the time, but she said she and her daughter called the hospital multiple times on May 10 and were told Miller was doing well.
“The next morning, we called the hospital for an update but we couldn’t get any details,” she told The Connecticut Post. “My last conversation with Billy he said everything was going to be OK and he would see me tomorrow but tomorrow has never come for us.”
Darnsteadt’s lawsuit is seeking unspecified monetary damages for workers’ negligence.
Yale-New Haven Hospital spokeswoman Dana Marnane shared a statement about the lawsuit.
“Even in the best organizations gaps in care may occur. When they do, our goal is to acknowledge them, learn from them, and ensure that we minimize any chance that they ever occur again,” the statement reads.
“We have offered our sincere apologies to the family of the patient and are working towards a resolution.”