Discrimination and negligence at Seattle Children’s hospital led to teen’s death, family alleges in lawsuit

A 16-year-old in Bothell, Washington, suffered from a severe allergic reaction to medication for months before she collapsed and died in front of her parents. Her family alleges discrimination and negligence contributed to her death.

The family of Sahana Ramesh filed a lawsuit in Washington’s King County Superior Court against Seattle Children’s hospital, Children’s University Medical Group and several unnamed healthcare workers.

Sahana died from eosinophilic myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, in February 2021, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit was first filed in 2022 by Sahana’s parents Nalini and Anapathur Ramesh and their son, Karthik, and alleged negligence but was amended to include racial discrimination allegations, according to court documents.

Last week, King County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Berns declined a motion brought by the hospital to dismiss the discrimination claim, court documents show.

In her order, Berns wrote the family have “plausibly alleged harm, including dignitary harm, resulting from unlawful discrimination – not from healthcare.”

In August 2020, the family of South Asian descent sought medical treatment at Seattle Children’s because Sahana had recurring seizures, which led to a hospital neurologist prescribing her lamotrigine, a drug used to prevent or control seizures, the suit says.

Sahana’s dosage was doubled shortly after she began taking it and increased by 50 percent that November.

She then developed a rash on several parts of her body including her hands, stomach, feet and face, the suit says. Within days, the rash worsened, and she was taken to the emergency department of Seattle Children’s, where she was diagnosed with a syndrome known as Drug Reaction with Eosinophilia and Systemic Symptoms or DRESS, according to the lawsuit.

DRESS is a drug allergy that causes fever, rash, facial swelling, enlarged lymph nodes, kidney or liver injury, and in some cases inflammation of organs, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Sahana was discharged after the diagnosis, but her symptoms didn’t improve, her family claims in the suit. Over nearly three months, the family sought medical care from the defendants more than a dozen times. During that time, her lab results also showed issues with her liver and organ function, the lawsuit says.

But the “defendants assured plaintiffs that Sahana could safely be cared for at home,” according to the lawsuit.

A spokesperson for Seattle Children’s told CNN, “Our hearts go out to any family mourning the loss of a child and we take our responsibility to provide equitable, high-quality care seriously, but cannot comment on this specific case due to pending litigation.”

CNN has reached out to Children’s University Medical Group for comment.

Steve Berman, an attorney for the Ramesh family, described Sahana’s death as her family’s “ultimate loss” that could have been avoided.

“We believe this was an avoidable tragedy that evidence shows was directly caused by negligence and lack of informed consent, rooted in widespread racism at the hospital,” Berman said in a statement.

The lawsuit points to several racial discrimination allegations made against the hospital, including claims that led to a 2021 independent review of equity, diversity and inclusion policies and practices.

The review concluded that allegations that a physician called another physician a racist epithet in 2009 were not adequately investigated by the hospital, and that there was a lack of action to minimize racial disparities in security calls, among other findings, according to a summary made public by the hospital.

In the lawsuit, attorneys for the family said their clients felt ignored and dismissed during their interactions with medical staff and felt “that they were not welcome, accepted, desired, or solicited at SCH.”

The family also alleges in the lawsuit that hospital staff didn’t monitor Sahana’s heart and failed to inform them of the risk of cardiac failure related to DRESS.

The Ramesh family requests an unspecified amount of damages.

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