A lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania state court alleges that a neurosurgeon performed a riskier than necessary procedure due to an inaccurate laboratory report, ultimately resulting in the death of a 14-year-old girl. The lawsuit was filed in Dauphin County and alleges negligence on the part of employees of Milton S. Hershey Medical Center resulted in the death of Charity McCoy.
McCoy was born with a condition called hydrocephalous, commonly called "water on the brain." To treat the condition, a ventriculoperitoneal shunt was inserted under her skin and into her cranial cavity to relieve pressure on her brain. In these cases, a shunt acts as a valve to relieve the pressure by draining fluid through a catheter from inside the skull into a patient's abdomen or chest.
According to the lawsuit, the shunt malfunctioned in September of 2008 and McCoy was taken to the hospital. A CT scan showed the catheter was coiled in her abdomen and needed to be repaired. A neurosurgeon told the family that McCoy's spinal fluid should be tested for infection. If an infection existed, the shunt would need to be removed and attached externally, but if there were no infection, it would be safer to leave the shunt under McCoy's skin where there would be little danger of its displacement or shifting.
When the spinal fluid was tested, the laboratory reported that there were positive signs of an infection. Since the report indicated an infection was present, the neurosurgeon began the operation to remove the shunt and place it externally rather than under McCoy's skin.
However, as the surgeon finished the process, the laboratory notified him that an error had occurred and the spinal fluid was actually negative for infection. Before a procedure could be performed to re-implant a shunt, the externally-placed shunt became displaced and cut off the oxygen to McCoy's brain causing extensive and irreversible brain damage. She was then taken off life support and died less than two weeks later.
The lawsuit alleges the hospital and its employees were negligent in providing inaccurate culture readings regarding the infection. The suit is also seeking additional information about McCoy's post-surgical treatment including information on why her oxygen levels were not being monitored. It is possible that additional allegations could be added if it appears there may have been negligence or malpractice in McCoy's pos-surgical monitoring.