Psych. hospital death blamed on understaffing

Profits over patients was the message for the jury from lawyers for Theresa Payne, whose 14-year-old daughter died from complications from an untreated brain tumor while she was a patient at the Westwood Lodge psychiatric hospital.

The Essex Superior Court civil trial began today with dueling opening statements, where Payne's attorney argued that the hospital was understaffed and ignored days of complaints from Monique Payne about headaches and vomiting.

A lawyer for Westwood Lodge argued staffing was adequate, and pointed out that Monique Payne had made similar complaints but didn't need treatment. In reality, her tumor was causing her brain to fill with fluid.

"The pressure in the head got worse and worse and worse for four hours and five minutes without a call to her doctor. It compressed, herniated, her brain stem causing her death. By the time she gets to Boston, she's essentially dead," Payne's attorney, Ben Novotny, told the jury.

Westwood Lodge lawyer Thomas Farchione told jurors in his opening statement that the nurses who are defendants in the case did everything they should have to meet the standard of care.

"Over thirty times the health care providers were looking at her, talking to her, assessing her. That many people can't be wrong," he said.

Theresa Payne was the first to take the stand, telling jurors about her teen daughter.

"She wanted to sing and dance. She wanted to be more of a singer. She wanted to meet Michael Jackson," she said. "That's what she wanted to do."