Lawsuit: Missouri VA hospital improperly inflated patient's catheter, causing fatal sepsis case

A lawsuit filed June 1 claims staff at Kansas City (Mo.) VA Medical Center improperly inflated a catheter in a patient's penis, causing him to contract sepsis and die, The Kansas City Star reports.

The patient, 52-year-old Gilbert Harris, visited the VA hospital's urology clinic May 12, 2016, for treatment of neurogenic bladder, according to the lawsuit.

 An unnamed medical provider removed Mr. Harris' catheter and inserted a new one, according to the lawsuit. That night, when Mr. Harris returned to the nursing home where he lived, he was "noted to have a fever and large amounts of blood and clotting at the end of his penis."

Mr. Harris was taken to Nevada (Mo.) Regional Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with an acute urinary tract infection and sepsis. He was then taken back to the VA hospital.

A CT scan at the VA facility "revealed that the Foley catheter with balloon inflated within the penile urethra" rather than in Mr. Harris' bladder, the lawsuit claims. The catheter was replaced in the emergency room, but Mr. Harris went into septic shock and died May 16, 2016.

Patient privacy rules do not allow the facility to discuss the care Mr. Harris received, a spokesperson for the Kansas City VA Medical Center told The Kansas City Star. The spokesperson referred questions to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which defends the VA in civil litigation.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office told The Kansas City Star it was not in a position to comment.

Mr. Harris' widow filed the suit, which seeks unspecified damages for the "great conscious physical pain and mental anguish" Mr. Harris suffered before his death.

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