Bad Medicine: The Case of Theressa Cabe

When someone has taken ill, they seek medical help in the places where it can be found, and should have a reasonable expectation that doctors and nurses will abide by the Hippocratic Oath which stipulates, “First, do no harm.” A Jacksonville woman named Theressa Cabe probably had the same idea in mind when she checked into Memorial Hospital Jacksonville for low hemoglobin (related to a mild stomach ulcer) last December 23rd, just a few days before her 74th birthday.

Tragedy Over the Holidays

Three days later, Mrs. Cabe complained to the hospital of an irritation on her arm, apparently caused by an intravenous device. She died on New Year’s Eve just before midnight. Her daughter, Judy Grimes, is a registered nurse who flew cross-country to see her mother in the hospital after she had been told there were complications. She was horrified to see her mother’s arm, red and swollen and hot to the touch, with a visible sore where a needle had been.

‘A Horrible Death’

“She died a horrible death”, said Ms. Grimes of her mother. The official cause of death was sepsis, but the infection in her arm was a classic case of MRSA – a bacteria-resistant strain of staph that the Cabe family contends was caused by an infected needle. They are also accusing Memorial’s nursing staff of withholding medical information from Mrs. Cabe’s physician. Their lawsuit seeks medical and legal expenses as well as funeral costs.

Memorial released a statement acknowledging MRSA’s role in the death of the patient in their care, but was careful not to accept responsibility, reading in part: “This is a sad reminder that MRSA is a significant concern for health care providers and is particularly problematic for patients who are already compromised by a serious illness. Like hospitals around the country, Memorial is involved in and committed to an intensive program to effectively curb MRSA.”