Doctor alleges cover-up at Elmhurst Hospital

October 20, 2010 8:34:58 PM PDT
Eyewitness News investigated a possible cover-up by a Queens hospital that one family says left them in the dark about how their loved one died.

It's a secret, they claim, that would have remained unknown to them if not for the courage of one doctor.

The medical care in the days following a stroke can make the difference between recovery and death.

Nathanial Malanum had survived the initial stroke, but it was the care or lack of it that a former resident doctor at Elmhurst Hospital claims killed Malanum.

"This is not the standard of care. This shouldn't have happened," said the doctor.

The resident doctor, fearing career-damaging retribution, agreed to talk to Eyewitness News only if given anonymity.

The former resident says that in court papers that poor monitoring of Mr. Malanum led to a break-down in care in which the patient continued to "receive heparin", a blood-thinning drug, when his chart clearly showed it was supposed to be discontinued.

He had a massive brain hemorrhage and spent months in a coma before dying.

"There was no intent to tell the family what happened," the doctor said.

In court documents, the resident doctor also claims a meeting was held at the hospital where it was agreed that Mr. Malanum's brain hemorrhage was directly related to the failure to properly monitor him. The student doctor then states that the residents were directed not to tell the family.

"It goes against everything that being a doctor is all about. Not only was no one taking responsibility for it, they were instructing residents to try and conceal this from this family," the doctor said.

In their lawsuit against the hospital, the Malanum family says they tried to get answers.

They say hospital records were withheld and that they were repeatedly told "that these things happen to people who have strokes".

The cover-up, according to the family attorney, had begun.

"Most patients, particularly patients like the Malanums, are not medically sophisticated and they completely rely upon the integrity of the medical providers to give them the truth," said Steven Samuel, the Malanum's attorney.

The Malanum's say they would have never known what really happened had it not been for the resident doctor who had the courage to contact them directly.

"I just thought the family deserved justice and I had to come forward and I had to tell them," the doctor said.

The student doctor also reported the case to the Health Department who investigated and concluded that, "The care provided to Mr. Malanum was not consistent with prevailing standards of medical practice."

"The Malanum family is very grateful to the courage of the doctor who came forward and divulged this. Had the doctor not done so, the Malanum family would have never known what happened to their loved one and the Department of Health would not have known either," Samuel said.

"Put yourself in the shoes of the family. You don't ever want to be betrayed by medical professionals who know so much more than you," the doctor said.

A Judge recently sided with the family ruling that the lawsuit can go forward.

Elmhurst Hospital declined to comment on Eyewitness News' report, but in court documents called any claims of a cover-up "inflammatory and outlandish."

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