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Parents of Boy Who Died Say They Blame Hospital System, Not Intern

May 16, 1985

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) _ The parents of a 6-year-old boy who died of a heart attack while under treatment for a cut lip say they blame the medical system at Madigan Army Medical Center, but not the attendant who cared for their son.

Air Force Lt. Joseph Johnston and his wife, Deborah, called for reform at Madigan Army Medical Center, where their son, Scott, died April 14 after he was improperly injected with a sedative.

The head of the hospital conceded Wednesday that the center learned from its mistakes and from ″inappropriate judgment″ that led to the boy’s death.

Brig. Gen. Darryl Powell, Madigan commander, said he has instituted several new standards for use of sedatives and for patient monitoring during anesthesia.

″I’m not bitter against (intern John) Bowersox at all,″ Mrs. Johnston said. ″He did the best he could. I blame the system. There should have been a doctor there supervising him.

″Bowersox was very nice, compassionate,″ she said. Before the operation ″he said, ‘Don’t worry. It won’t take very long.’ The next time I saw him, he knelt before me and said, ’I’m sorry. I don’t know what went wrong.‴

Bowersox declined to be interviewed Wednesday.

Powell said at least three mistakes occurred in what normally would have been a simple operation:

- The mixture of sedatives was injected directly into the vein instead of muscle, which would have released the drugs more slowly.

- The staff failed to monitor the boy’s breathing, pupil response and pulse rate during the operation.

- The intern was not supervised by a physician.

Powell said that under the new guidelines, doctors are to give no intravenous sedatives without carefully monitoring vital signs and recording them, and whenever an intern is called to assist in a procedure with potential risk to a patient an attending physician must supervise.

Powell said he welcomes the Army medical team that’s expected to visit Madigan next week to investigate the death.

The general said his medical staff is a team of ″highly talented, credible people. I would give my year’s salary, bet it against anybody who says we don’t have quality health care here.″

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