Doctor accused of malpractice in patient death after non-emergent transport

A lawyer suing Dr. Jennifer Jones said she should have called 911 and told the ambulance to rush patient Christie Miville to the hospital with lights and sirens


By Mark Hayward
The New Hampshire Union Leader

MANCHESTER, N.H. — A medical malpractice trial that started Monday in Hillsborough County Superior Court hinges on whether an ambulance should have turned on its lights and sirens.

If Dr. Jennifer T. Jones, the chief of internal medicine at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center clinic in Manchester, had followed the proper standard of care, she would have called 911 and told the ambulance to rush patient Christie Miville—with lights and siren—to the hospital, according to the lawyer suing Jones and Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

Miville, who was 37, had just finished an EKG test in Jones' office, and Jones had hand-written a note on the results questioning if the Bedford resident was suffering from poor blood flow to her heart. Jones decided on further tests at Catholic Medical Center that evening.

Jones' staff called an Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support ambulance, but told them it was not an emergency. The ambulance followed the flow of rush-hour traffic, spent time at Jones' office reading vitals and getting instructions. It took 22 minutes to go the four miles to CMC.

"She (Miville) is overweight. She's a smoker. She's diabetic. She's got an enlarged heart. You know she's at risk. What did (Jones) do? She did nothing at all," said Michael Rainboth, who is representing Miville's estate.

Shortly after arriving at Catholic Medical Center, Miville went into cardiac arrest. Ten days later, her family took her off life support, and she died May 24, 2015.

But Jones' lawyers said nothing about Miville indicated an emergency during her visit, which was her normal annual checkup.

Miville laughed and joked with the staff. She talked about her then-15-year-old daughter's pending prom. Jones discussed the EKG with Miville and the decision to send her to CMC for further tests.

She was clinically stable, said Concord lawyer Jay Surdukowski, who is representing Jones and Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Had her condition worsened, paramedics could have turned on sirens, he said. Miville's condition was urgent but not emergent, Surdukowski said.

"911, what is your emergency? (That's) the very first question," Surdukowski said. "911 we all know is an important resource reserved only for emergencies."

The trial started on Monday. Miville's mother, Donna Miville, and daughter, Tasia, now 18, sat at the plaintiff's table.

Both Rainboth and Surdukowski plan to call expert witnesses. Rainboth's experts will testify about the proper care in such a case, and they will key on what to do when someone experiences difficulty breathing.

Surdukowski's experts are expected to testify that Miville would have died even if she arrived at the hospital sooner.

The trial started with Jones taking the stand. Her early testimony included whether Miville was in stable condition at her office.

"Do you think someone who's having difficulty breathing is stable?" Rainboth asked.

"It depends on their whole status, not just the stated difficulty breathing," said Jones, who lives in Bedford.

The jury comprises nine women and five men, two who will eventually be designated as alternates. The jury is expected to get the case next Monday.

Copyright 2018 The New Hampshire Union Leader

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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