Beebe denies fault in death of 14-year-old 

Family of Christina Atkins seeks compensation
December 7, 2012

The family of a former freshman at Cape Henlopen High School is seeking to prove Beebe Medical Center is to blame for the student’s death.

The family of Christina Atkins, including her mother, Bonnie; her father, Christopher Edward; two sisters and two brothers, filed a lawsuit against Beebe, Sept. 4, claiming the hospital’s medical negligence directly caused the premature death of the 14-year-old girl.

In its answering brief, filed Nov. 7, Beebe denies it is responsible for Christina’s death.

Bonnie Atkins took Christina to the emergency room at Beebe, May 26, 2011. Christina previously had been treated for a urinary tract infection by her doctor and after a short absence, returned to school.

The school nurse called Bonnie Atkins and told her Christina was feverish and lethargic. Bonnie Atkins said she took Christina from school to the emergency room at Beebe Medical Center, where a nurse asked her for a urine sample and escorted Christina to the restroom.

According to the Atkins’ complaint, Christina began experiencing respiratory difficulty while she was locked in the restroom by herself.  The family claims Bonnie Atkins, Christina’s sister Amanda Morris and hospital personnel could hear Christina struggling to breathe from outside the door.

In its answering brief, Beebe admits that for a period of time, no one was able to unlock the bathroom door, but it denies Christina’s audible respiratory difficulty.

The Atkins’ complaint states Beebe’s nursing staff and maintenance personnel had no access to the master key for the ER restroom, and did not know where the master key was located.

In its statement, Beebe admits there was no master key at the head nursing station in the emergency department, but officials deny nursing staff and personnel had no access to the key.

Ten minutes passed before a security guard opened the bathroom door, where Christina was unresponsive, according to the Atkins’ lawsuit.

Christina was flown to A.I. DuPont Hospital where she died two days later.  Beebe admits its staff recommended Christina be transferred to A.I. DuPont, but denies the 10-minute delay in opening the restroom door and the claim that Christina was unresponsive when the door was opened.

The cause of death was respiratory failure with sepsis and possibly toxic shock syndrome as contributing factors.

In the complaint, attorney James Hall writes Beebe breached required medical safety standards to have a safety plan to access locked restrooms to assist unresponsive, disabled or unconscious patients.  Hall also says Delaware Health and Social Services found that Beebe failed to comply with Delaware healthcare regulations for failing to access the locked restroom door.

Beebe denies it breached medical safety standards and the DHSS finding.

The Atkins family seeks monetary compensation for Christina’s suffering and the suffering of the family caused by her death.

Beebe says it is not responsible for persons and events beyond its control and asks that the complaint be dismissed.

A scheduling conference is set for 3:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 13, before Commissioner Alicia B. Howard at Sussex County Superior Courthouse in Georgetown.

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