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Family sues over baby's plight

July 28, 2005

BY JAMES GONSER, Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

Tripler staff put newborn on wrong gas; in coma for life

The family of a baby boy who was given carbon dioxide instead of oxygen immediately after his birth had their attorney file a lawsuit in federal District Court yesterday, seeking at least $21.5 million to provide care for the infant, who will be in a coma for the rest of his life. Shalay Peterson gave birth to Islam Yasim Ibn Siddiq “Izzy” Peterson Jan. 14 at Tripler Army Medical Center. The baby was healthy but received the wrong gas for 42 minutes before staff noticed, according to the family’s attorney Rick Fried.

“His condition, unfortunately, is unchanged,” Fried said. “He remains in a coma.” In the suit against the federal government, the family is seeking damages for medical malpractice and personal injury. The boy has suffered great physical pain, discomfort and permanent bodily injuries, according to the document.

The baby, who is now 6 months old, has been at Tripler since he was born but was moved July 22 to Wilford Hall Hospital near Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where his father, Army Sgt. Dwight Peterson, was recently transferred. A statement from Tripler yesterday said the staff has provided the Peterson family with as much comfort and dignity as was possible following the tragedy. It also expresses sorrow and deep sympathy regarding the Peterson family’s situation. “The Army will continue to try and settle the case,” Tripler spokeswoman Margaret Tippy said. “Regarding specific litigation, we are not able to comment. We have completed gathering the information and facts, and have taken immediate corrective action.” Fried said the baby is blind and needs a respirator and feeding tube to survive. He is expected to live for about 40 years and the cost of care, including 24-hour nursing care, is estimated to be at least $20 million.

The family is seeking $1.5 million for economic losses of the boy’s potential earnings over his lifetime and damages for pain and suffering. “The reason we filed suit is we hadn’t had very satisfactory offers from the Army Department of Claims,” Fried said. “Offers were very inadequate for this case.” Fried said he is hoping for a settlement or a quick trial to ease the family’s concerns about the future care of their child. So far, the government has covered all medical expenses, he said. Fried said the boy’s parents are committed to giving him the best life possible under the circumstances. “The parents are convinced they communicate with Izzy,” Fried said. “Certain people have argued that he is in a persistent vegetative state, and the family strongly disagrees with that.”