Sorry Works!

Sorry Works! Blog

Making Disclosure A Reality For Healthcare Organizations 

Family's Disclosure Offer Rejected; Hospital Sued

Over the past month, we've shared with you the story of the Westhoff Family from Danville, California. In summary, the family lost their two-year old daughter, Morgan, to medical errors at Children's Hospital Oakland (CHO) and the death was not handled in an empathetic or transparent manner.  Instead, the hospital sent the family fundraising letters, marketing magazines, annual reports, etc, which were frequent and cruel reminders of their daughter's death.  The Westhoff family thoroughly investigated their daughter's care, uncovered numerous problems, and eventually met with CHO's leadership.  The family, who has been major donors to the hospital, requested an apology and a financial settlement which the family pledged to invest back into Children's Hospital Oakland (CHO) to develop a disclosure and apology program.  The Westhoff family offered to partner with CHO to improve the hospital and also use their joint story to improve other hospitals.  Also, the Westhoffs asked for the marketing and fundraising letters to be stopped. Initially, CHO was blown away by the Westhoff's offer.  CHO admitted they didn't have a formal disclosure program, and, yes, the hospital promised to stop sending mail.

However, over time the hospital rejected the family's offer and refused to settle the case, and CHO's fundraising and marketing mailers still continued to arrive in the Westhoff's mail box.

Local media in Oakland & San Francisco picked up the story from the angle of the hospital continuing to send mail to the Westhoffs:

And now the Westhoff family is suing....and it appears the law firm has uncovered some stuff even the Westhoff family didn't know such as an autopsy that was never performed!  Here is the press release from the law firm summarizing the lawsuit: and here is some media coverage:

Perhaps when this case is finished CHO will look back with deep regret for rejecting the Westhofff's initial offer that included the family putting the money back into the hospital.  The case will probably dwarf the expense of the Westhoff's initial offer in litigation expenses, lost staff time, morale, and productivity, lost prestige in the community, including the philanthropic community, and so on.

The moral of the story is your hospital/insurer needs to develop a formal disclosure program where front-line docs and nurses are trained how to be empathetic and pro-active post-event, and risk, claims, and defense attorneys are expected to be pro-active post-event.  Here is the link for the column from the Westhoff family sharing their story and initial offer to CHO: