Lawsuit accuses HCA hospital of covering up medical error that led to patient's death

The family of a 25-year-old patient who died due to the improper removal of a central catheter line is suing Loxahatchee, Fla.-based Palms West Hospital, alleging it concealed the medical mistake that led to the man's death, the Broward-Palm Beach New Times reports.

The suit alleges Palms West staff concocted a false narrative that the patient, Josh Dziedzic, was dying of "broken heart syndrome" due to feeling bad about relapsing into opioid addiction. An opioid overdose put Mr. Dziedzic in the hospital in August 2016, according to the lawsuit.

The Dziedzic family only discovered their son had died from a preventable medical error — a burst of air entering his vein due to improper removal of a central catheter line — when the county medical examiner corrected the hospital-listed cause of death, which stated his death was "natural," to listing the cause of death as an "accident." The removal of the catheter left Mr. Dziedzic in a coma, and he was taken off life support Aug. 22, 2016.

A 2017 investigation conducted by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration found the hospital did not report the death as a medical accident, even after officials received the autopsy findings.

The hospital's intensive care unit director "stated that she did not discuss this incident with the 'higher-ups such as the vice president of quality,'" according to the investigation documents.

A spokesperson for Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare, which owns Palms West Hospital, denied the suit's claims.

"It's always difficult to lose a loved one, and our hearts go out to the Dziedzic family," she told New Times. "While we have sympathy for the family, we dispute the facts as set forth in the complaint and intend to defend these allegations vigorously."

The lawsuit, filed the week of June 10, charges conspiracy, infliction of emotional distress and medical malpractice.

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