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County OKs $20 million settlement for boy who had surgery at Stroger

Updated: March 7, 2013 6:35AM



In the span of a year, Keith Francique went from being a carefree 3-year-old, captured on video running along the beach, “yelling Mommy, Daddy” to a child who could no longer walk or speak or feed himself after undergoing outpatient surgery at John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County, an attorney for the boy’s family said.

On Tuesday, Cook County commissioners voted to pay $20 million to settle the medical malpractice lawsuit the boy’s mother filed claiming that her son suffered a heart attack and stopped breathing while alone for several minutes in the recovery room after outpatient surgery on an undescended testicle.

This was a case of “a child who is an overly sedated state — suffering from the effects of the anesthesia and shouldn’t have been dropped off in the recovery room. He was not monitored or tended to until he went in to cardiac and respiratory arrest,” said Chicago Attorney Timothy Ashe, who is representing the family. The lack of oxygen to the brain lasted minutes — leaving him “profoundly brain damaged” and unable to care for himself, Ashe said.

The boy’s mother, Justine Francique, was not talking publicly about the settlement, but Ashe said the money will be used for round-the-clock long-term care, occupational and speech therapy as well as surgery down the line.

Ashe said there’s video of the boy running along the beach, yelling to his parents. Now 4, “He can’t walk, he cannot talk, he’s incontinent. He is tube-fed and he requires care and treatment for every aspect of his life,” Ashe said.

By settling the lawsuit, the county admitted no wrongdoing. But Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle told reporters at an unrelated new conference Tuesday that several staffers at Stroger Hospital — the main hospital in the county’s public health system — were disciplined after the incident.

“I think in any human enterprise bad things happen. This was a particularly bad thing that happened,” she said, noting that she had great confidence in the hospital system’s bosses and that steps have been taken to deal with the problem.

The $20 million settlement, thought to be one of the top five payouts in county’s history, will come out of the county government’s self-insurance fund — taxpayer dollars.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the county voted for two other settlements stemming from medical malpractice lawsuits filed against the county’s health and hospital system, including one for $2.4 million and one for $1 million.



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