OhioHealth O’Bleness emergency room

File photo.

Various emergency physicians and medical groups have denied the claims in a lawsuit against them from survivors of an Albany man who died last year from a flesh-eating bacterial infection.

Michael R. Gillen, 43, died at the Ohio State University Medical Center on April 20, 2016, where he had been diagnosed with necrotizing faciitis, a rare “flesh-eating” bacterial infection that destroys soft tissue under the skin.

According to the lawsuit, filed last month in Athens County Common Pleas Court, Gillen went to Holzer Clinic of Athens on the evening of April 15, 2016, with complaints of fever, body aches, congestion, chills, a cough and headache, with a temperature of 102.2 degrees.

Several days after being prescribed Tamiflu and being sent home, the suit says, Gillen went to the OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital Emergency Department where he described having right lower-leg pain and swelling, an abnormally fast resting heart rate, and “flu-like symptoms.”

He was again sent home and scheduled for an ultra-sound the following morning but returned to the emergency room by ambulance shortly after 5 a.m. because the leg pain had become so severe, the suit says.

Gillen was given painkillers, and despite his father specifically asking whether his son would benefit from antibiotics, a doctor said such treatment was not necessary, according to the lawsuit.

In the suit, the family describes repeatedly asking about whether Gillen should receive antibiotics and repeatedly being denied.

By the afternoon of Gillen’s hospitalization, the suit states, he suffered numerous cardiac arrests due to sepsis and underwent emergency resuscitation.

Helicopter transport to OSU was arranged, and antibiotics were ordered in the evening – the 14th hour of Gillen’s admission – to stabilize him for the flight, the suit says.

Shortly after arrival at OSU, medical staff diagnosed Gillen with necrotizing faciitis in his right leg, the suit says. They reportedly performed an emergency amputation of Gillen’s right leg.

Despite these attempts to combat the infection, by that point, the suit alleges, it was so far advanced that his life could not be saved. Gillen died shortly after noon on April 20.

The lawsuit claims that no one at O’Bleness included an infectious-disease process in diagnosis of Gillen and nobody performed diagnostic tests to that end or antibiotic treatment “even in light of the objective and subjective signs and symptoms which pointed directly to an infectious disease process.”

The suit charges that the defendants were negligent and breached appropriate standards of care, with Gillen suffering “tremendous mental and physical pain and suffering” prior to his wrongful death.

The suit says Gillen’s wife and two children continue to suffer profound and extreme mental anguish and grief. 

The suit charges negligence and seeks both compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney fees and court costs.

Two separate answers have been filed in response to the complaint. The first, filed April 14, is from defendants OhioHealth O’Bleness, an emergency physician and Athens Medical Associates.

The answer denies various allegations in the claim and makes 10 defenses, including the assertion that injuries and damages were caused by a third person or parties, that the complaint is barred by statute of limitations, that the plaintiff/estate’s own negligence (apparently referring to Gillen) is greater, if any, than the defendants’, and that there has been a failure to join necessary parties to the case.

A second answer, filed April 17, by an emergency physician, an attendant nurse, and the Southern Ohio Emergency Physicians group, also denied various allegations made in the complaint.

Under affirmative defenses, the answer claims that the complaint fails to comply with requirements under Ohio Revised Code, that any injuries, losses and damages were a result of a superseding, intervening cause and/or the plaintiff’s own negligence, that necessary parties are unnamed in the action, and that the complaint is barred by the statute of limitations, and improper venue, among other things.

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