County Launches Probe of Wrongful Death Case

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday directed its chief administrative officer and county counsel's office to investigate why the county has delayed payment of a wrongful death settlement to the family of a man who died at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center in 1995.

The directive, sponsored by Supervisor Mike Antonovich, came in response to a Times article Tuesday that disclosed that the family of Charles Hamilton has been waiting for final approval of a $625,000 out-of-court settlement for almost eight months because the hospital had not drafted a required corrective action plan.

That plan was supposed to address potential problems that may have caused Hamilton's death, including whether an unsupervised first-year surgical intern who inserted a high-risk catheter into his chest was adequately trained and supervised by staff doctors.

Soon after insertion of the catheter, Hamilton--who had been in stable condition after surgery--went into cardiac arrest and died, in part because no staff doctors came to his aid for half an hour, according to legal and medical records.

But such a plan was not drafted and sent to the Department of Health Services for its verification and review, as the county supervisors require, until a few months ago, when health officials found that the settlement was being held up.

Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, who represents the district that includes the South Los Angeles trauma center, also said she will demand answers from hospital administrators as to why they never properly reviewed Hamilton's death or drafted the plan.

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