Medical error can have devastating effects. Here, in their own words, Connecticut families tell the stories of how medical error changed their lives forever.
On January 16, 2001 our family was devastated by the loss of our beautiful son, Matthew David Gersz, at the age of 22.
Matt was our first born son and the first grandchild on both sides of the family. You can imagine the joy he brought into all of our lives. From the beginning, he had that Cheshire-cat grin and that gleam in his eyes. He always loved joking around, making others laugh and teasing his brother, Peter. He loved all sports and was a good athlete himself. He was a kind, thoughtful, and loyal friend and he had many, from all walks of life. He had a girlfriend, Heather, whom he loved dearly, and when he wasn't with her in Boston, he loved family gatherings, going to the movies, fishing, and his favorite activity, going out to eat.
Things began to change for Matt when at the age of 19 he was in a serious car accident. He was hit broadside by a drunk driver, who left the scene on foot. Matt's injuries were life threatening and he was hospitalized for 13 days.
We were overjoyed when Matt fully recovered and he returned to work a few months later. Later that year we noticed changes in Matt.
This is when he began seeing Dr. Khu. Matt was given huge amounts of narcotics and controlled substances for scoliosis, a condition that wasn't an issue for Matt. We had no idea he could be prescribed the amounts given, especially since he had no condition to warrant their use. Confidentiality laws prevented us from obtaining his medical treatment.
Matthew saw Dr. Khu on Jan. 16, 2001, the day of his death, and was given four prescriptions, two of them post-dated. Matthew died soon after at home. The doctor was charged with manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and post dating scrips. It was at this time that a complaint was filed with the Department of Public Health.
We found the two and a half year ordeal with the DPH completely inadequate. We weren't notified of upcoming hearing dates, and when we arrived the hearing would begin late (unprepared lawyer), be postponed, be excused early, and so on.
I provided the attorney with valuable printouts of actual prescriptions where Dr. Khu clearly exceeded recommended dosages on numerous occasions, but this material was never presented. Most importantly, though, I was refused my request to make a statement. I thought it would be important to let the panel know that my son was perfectly healthy, and didn't require any medication, especially opiates.
In December 2003 the panel met with the board. A new committee member suggested the removal of his license. He was immediately shot down by a committee veteran who said, "taking away a doctor's license is too draconian." The decision the board recommended was a permanent restriction on his license. He can no longer treat chronic pain patients.
We were disappointed with this decision as it still puts the public at risk. On January 22, 2004 the courts had to do what DPH failed to do, and banned him from practicing for a year. Why the different outcome, when they had the same facts?
The truth is the DPH only investigates 8% of complaints against physicians and health care facilities. They are there to protect the health of Connecticut residents. Instead they are putting the public at risk by failing to act promptly and appropriately against these egregious abuses.
I want to see our legislature demand changes. We need a professional, impartial staff to review the cases. We need to insist that physicians file adverse event reports as hospitals are required by law to do. Bad doctors should not be allowed to practice.
Although our family will never recover from the loss of someone so precious to us, it is my hope that these changes will prevent other families from experiencing the grief we are enduring.
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