Jury gets psych. hospital death case

Jury gets psych. hospital death case

(FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) - Lawyers delivered powerful closing arguments Monday, their last attempt to try and sway a jury that now has to decide whether the Westwood Lodge psychiatric hospital is to blame in the death of a 14-year-old patient who succumbed to a treatable side effect of her brain tumor.

Lawyers for the mother of patient Monique Payne say the for-profit Westwood Lodge, which is owned by United Health Services, puts profits over patient safety by failing to adequately staff the adolescent ward and by not training staff to look out for Payne's symptoms.

Payne had a known brain tumor that could have caused fluid in the brain to build up, which is what happened in 2006, eventually killing her.

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Payne had complained of headaches for days, and as her condition deteriorated on her final day, staff still didn't decide to hospitalize her until it was too late. After she stopped breathing and turned blue, they called 911.

After a two-week civil trial in Essex Superior Court in Lawrence, jurors began deliberating at mid-day after hearing closing arguments from both sides.

Attorney Ben Novotny, representing Monique's mother Theresa, said staff ignored the girl's cries for help and could have easily prevented her death by taking her to Children's Hospital, where the fluid buildup could have been detected and drained.

"She's sitting there and saying my head hurts, I'm nauseous and vomiting. Please do something. I'm in a locked psychiatric unit, I can't do anything for myself. I am 100 percent relying on you and your judgment to do the right thing and protect me. And they don't listen. They think she's faking. They think she's attention-seeking. They refuse to go see her," Novotny said.

"And think about what's going through Monique's mind as the hours pass and the time passes and the opportunities are missed. How scared, how scared must she have been?" Novotny said.

But hospital attorney Joseph Farchione said staff acted appropriately, checking on Monique frequently, citing one instance when he said defendant nurse Valerie Packard visited Monique for a half-hour. Packard along with nurses Joan McMorrow, Kathryn Bowers and Jessamine Dearbin, and the hospital itself are defendants in the lawsuit.

"She was not complaining of constant headaches, she was not constantly throwing up. And this vomiting that we're hearing about, it's not profuse, profound vomiting. Nobody's said that. And yet nurse Packard stayed there that whole half-hour plus and talked to her, observed her, which is what a nurse does. Part of what nurse Packard was doing was giving her comfort. Being a mom. Being a grandmother to this child. The other part was being a professional. Looking at her. Assessing her," Farchione said.

The jury is set to resume deliberations Tuesday morning.