Suffredin- For a Better Cook County  
 

Accountability
Forest Preserves
Public Safety
Cook County Budget
Forest Pres. Budget
Property Tax Appeal
Health & Hospitals
Land Bank Authority
Policy Resolutions

 

   
 
   
   
 
   
     
  Office phone numbers:  
   
 
 

Search current and proposed Cook County Legislation in Larry's exclusive legislative library.

   
 

The Cook County Code of Ordinances are the current laws of Cook County.

   
  Last year more people used the County's forest preserves than visited Yellowstone National Park.
   
     
     
     



Doctor's error to cost $35 million
County to settle suit over brain damage

Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo and Tom Rybarczyk

Cook County is set to approve a $35 million medical malpractice settlement with a woman who suffered severe brain damage after undergoing a botched procedure at a county-run hospital.

The woman, a 30-year-old mother of two, was subjected to the failed procedure at Oak Forest Hospital only because physicians there had misdiagnosed a viral infection as appendicitis, according to the lawyers involved.

The case is one of the largest settlements in Cook County and matches a $35 million settlement reached last year in a case involving an anesthesiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital that left a boy brain damaged. That case did not involve the county.

"The facts in the case are horrible," said Cook County Commissioner Peter Silvestri, chairman of the board's Litigation Subcommittee, which approved the settlement last month. "The settlement is justified and certainly should be paid."

At its meeting Wednesday, the County Board will be asked to approve the settlement, a record for it in medical malpractice cases. William Maddux, the presiding judge of the Law Division, approved the settlement last week.

Under the terms, the county would pay $20 million, with insurance carriers funding the remainder.

The case involves Neveen Morkos, a Christian who immigrated to the United States to avoid religious discrimination in Egypt, and Dr. Gustavo Albear, an anesthesiologist.

Morkos and her husband, Hany, moved to Tinley Park in February 2004 to live near family members, who had immigrated a few years earlier, said Eugene Pavalon, the Morkos' lawyer.

They did not have health insurance, so when Neveen Morkos experienced acute stomach pain on May 19, 2004, an ambulance drove her to Oak Forest Hospital, which has a small emergency room.

Cook County runs three hospitals that provide health care regardless of a person's ability to pay.

Problem misdiagnosed

Doctors told Morkos she needed an emergency appendectomy. It was later determined that she had a viral infection that did not require surgery.

Albear, who was 78 at the time, was called to prepare Morkos for surgery.

Albear medicated Morkos to get her muscles to relax. Since Morkos would not be able to breathe on her own while medicated, Albear then inserted a tube through her nose to provide oxygen to her lungs.

However, Albear did not secure the tube properly, Pavalon said. When the tube became dislodged, Albear was unable to reinsert it, depriving Morkos of oxygen.

By the time surgeons were able to perform an emergency tracheostomy to provide oxygen to Morkos, 10 to 12 minutes had passed. She then went into cardiac arrest.

"There was no doubt that the negligence in this case caused this tragic occurrence and Neveen's irreversible brain damage," said Pavalon, a lawyer with the Chicago firm Pavalon, Gifford, Laatsch & Marino. "So not only do the circumstances justify this record settlement, but this is one of those traumatic occurrences that simply should not have happened."

After the incident, Morkos initially was in a vegetative state, but she has improved. Though she requires round-the-clock care and cannot walk, she can now say her husband's name and recognizes her children, Halana, 6, and Victor, 3, Pavalon said. She also can write in Arabic.

Morkos is in a Burbank nursing, but her family desperately wants her home, Pavalon said. The money from the settlement will allow them to build or buy and modify a house and provide in-home care.

Morkos was not working at the time of the incident because the family was newly arrived in the country and she was caring for the children. She was college-educated and had taught computer science in Egypt.

"She was always looking for a better place," said Nermeen Morkos, Neveen's older sister.

Nermeen Morkos said she visits her sister every day and looks forward to bringing her home.

"We hope she can walk someday," Nermeen Morkos said. "We are praying to God; we are waiting for a miracle for her."

Albear could not be reached for comment.

When asked in the deposition he gave for the lawsuit if he remembered the episode, Albear said, "I will recall for the rest of my life."

Albear retired in 2004 after the incident, said Patrick Driscoll, head of the Civil Actions Bureau of the Cook County state's attorney's office.

Oak Forest Hospital did not discipline Albear and state records do not show any previous disciplinary issues. He renewed his license with the state last summer, but Driscoll said he understands that Albear, who turns 80 on Wednesday, is no longer practicing.

Although no parties in the case directly blame his age, Pavalon said he thinks it was a factor. Albear also had arthritis in his hands.

"I think probably he never should have been in that [operating] room," Pavalon said.

No age restrictions

Silvestri said the county does not have age restrictions for its doctors. He said when this case was discussed in committee, commissioners asked county officials to research the issue after they were told that some hospitals impose work limitations based upon age.

Through a spokeswoman, officials of Cook County's Bureau of Health Services and County Board President John Stroger's office declined to comment before the board's approval.

Albear worked for 23 years at Palos Community Hospital before retiring in 1994. In his deposition, Albear said he got a job at Oak Forest Hospital six months later, noting he enjoyed his work and wasn't ready for retirement.

Commissioner Mike Quigley, vice chairman of the Litigation Subcommittee, said Albear's age was not so much the issue but rather his overall ability to perform.

"The more you hear about the case, the worse it gets," Quigley said. "Someone should have been able to determine that this physician was incapable of performing critical procedures. He shouldn't have been in a position to fail."



Recent Headlines

Records falsified in Metra work logs
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Chicago Tribune

How we shaft the mentally ill
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Chicago Tribune

County Board Of Review To Digitize, Streamline Property Tax Appeals System
Monday, July 28, 2014
Journal Online

Three DUI arrests, revoked license still on sheriff's payroll
Monday, July 28, 2014
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County approves road projects for upcoming years
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Northwest Indiana Times

Palatine, County Forest Preserve To Partner Up
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Palatine Journal Online

Man dies following beating at Cook County Jail
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Chicago Tribune

Cook County Health Board selects new leaders
Friday, July 25, 2014
Crain's Chicago Business

The PrivateBank pledges $10 million to the Cook County Land Bank
Friday, July 25, 2014
Chicago Tribune

Cook County Commissioners switch votes, rehire erstwhile contractor
Friday, July 25, 2014
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County Board adds two questions to packed fall ballot
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Chicago Tribune

Cook County to cut buildings' carbon emissions
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Fox 32 Chicago

Cook County Board sends assault weapons referendum to the ballot
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County mulls fund-of-funds investment, other changes
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Pensions & Investments

Forest Preserves of Cook County to get expertise, guidance from new Policy Council
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Special to suffredin.org

Preserves and parks offering memorial trees and benches for a price
Monday, July 21, 2014
Chicago Tribune

Community leaders, sheriff aim to help mentally ill inmates
Monday, July 21, 2014
FOX 32 Chicago

TIF Revenue Down 2 Percent in Suburban Cook Co.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Palatine Patch

Recorder of Deeds staffers accused of political motive in firing
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County sheriff's department will focus on catching people wanted on arrest warrants
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Chicago Sun-Times

all news items

Paid for by Larry Suffredin and not at taxpayer expense. A Haymarket Production.
^ TOP