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City Approves $1.75M Settlement in Girl's Death

Arielle Starks died of bronchial asthma in 2002 after a string of alleged mistakes made by Chicago Fire Department paramedics

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    Chicago taxpayers will spend $1.75 million to compensate the family of a 13-year-old girl who died of bronchial asthma in 2002 after a string of alleged mistakes made by Chicago Fire Department paramedics. (Published Tuesday, Feb 14, 2012)

    Chicago taxpayers will spend $1.75 million to compensate the family of a 13-year-old girl who died of bronchial asthma in 2002 after a string of alleged mistakes made by Chicago Fire Department paramedics.

    Chicago's City Council approved the settlement on Wednesday after being advanced by the finance committee a day earlier.

    City Settles Suit in Girl's Death

    [CHI] City Settles Suit in Girl's Death
    Chicago taxpayers will spend $1.75 million to compensate the family of a 13-year-old girl who died of bronchial asthma in 2002 after a string of alleged mistakes made by Chicago Fire Department paramedics. (Published Tuesday, Feb 14, 2012)

    "The proper medical procedures were not performed on my daughter," the girl's mother, Dorothy Starks, tearfully told reporters Tuesday.

    Arielle Starks died at Advocate Trinity Hospital after an ambulance carrying her to the hospital collided with a car at 87th and Langley. Another ambulance picked up Arielle and took her to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.

    Following her death, the Chicago Fire Department insisted that Starks was "close to death" when paramedics arrived on the scene, that her medical treatment was never interrupted and that she was getting oxygen, but still "not breathing."

    But Murphy said the four paramedics who treated Starks incorrectly intubated the girl. They went "through the esophagus that leads to the stomach, instead of through the trachea that leads to her lungs," he said.

    The second mistake involved ignoring a “standing medical order” issued by the Fire Department. According to Murphy, it states that, if a patient’s condition worsens, paramedics are to look into the patient’s mouth to “visually observe where the breathing tube was placed.”

    If the paramedics had done that, Murphy said, “They would have seen the tube was in the esophagus and not in her trachea and they would have removed it and properly placed it.”

    The third mistake involved the "fender-bender" that delayed Starks’ transport to the hospital.

    Instead of proceeding to Trinity Hospital after determining that the driver of the other vehicle was not injured, the paramedics chose to follow, what Murphy called a "ridiculous general order" that states that, if you’re in an accident involving property damage, you remain on the scene.

    As a result, Starks arrived at the hospital where she was pronounced dead 19 minutes after the accident, 25 minutes after being improperly intubated and roughly 40 minutes after the initial call was placed to 911.

    "In the United States, children do not die from asthma. It’s just that simple. I would categorically say there is no reason why this girl’s asthma should have killed her. She should have been back at school and back playing with her friends the next day," Murphy said.

    "If she had been properly intubated, they could have stayed on the scene of that accident all day. If they had just gone on to the hospital, her chances would have been tough, but we had testimony from experts that she would likely have survived. But, because they incorrectly intubated her, failed to follow a standing medical order that would have discovered that and stayed at the scene when they didn’t need to be there -- because of all that, this girl died, and she did not need to die," he said.

    The family initially demanded $6 million. The settlement avoids a trial.

    "I don't want this outcome to be like with Arielle," said Dorothy Starks. "God forbid I have to call them again."