7 Iowa first responders, doctor, hospital sued by fiancé of man in vegetative state

The plaintiff alleges medical negligence in the treatment of the man, who has been in a vegetative state since a respiratory episode in 2018


By Laura French

DES MOINES, Iowa — The fiancé of a man who has been in a vegetative state since suffering a respiratory episode in 2018 has sued an Iowa city, seven first responders, a doctor and a hospital alleging medical negligence leading to his brain injury. 

The lawsuit against the city of Des Moines, seven members of the Des Moines Fire Department, Iowa Lutheran Hospital and an Iowa Lutheran doctor, filed on behalf of the fiancé and legal guardian of Lawrence McLachlan III, seeks damages for medical costs, lost income, pain and suffering, "loss of enjoyment of life, and past and future loss of full mind and body," according to the Des Moines Register

Court documents describe McLachlan as a healthy 49-year-old at the time of the September 2018 incident, when he went to an urgent care clinic for respiratory issues including a cough lasting about a week. A doctor at the clinic advised that McLachlan should be transported to the emergency room, at which point Des Moines Fire Department EMTs were called to the scene. 

The suit alleges the EMTs didn't start preparing to intubate McLachlan until 17 minutes after they arrived and then made multiple unsuccessful attempts to intubate him. After successfully intubating him, they later removed the tube in the ambulance due to McLachlan vomiting blood, the lawsuit states.

The suit also claims an on-call doctor for the hospital was out of town and refused to go to the hospital to treat him. McLachlan suffered a cardiac arrest shortly after arriving at the hospital and was resuscitated, but suffered brain damage leaving him in a persistent vegetative state, according to court documents. 

A lawyer for the plaintiff said that due to COVID-19 restrictions, she expects the case will take up to two years to go to trial. 

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