A medical malpractice case in Grand Rapids, Michigan recently settled for the sum of $750,000 for the family of a deceased infant. The child, Annabelle Dorey, passed away in January 2016 after being treated by a physician assistant at the Cherry Street Services health center in Greenville. This healthcare location is supported by federal government funding.

The lawsuit, filed through the United States District Court in Grand Rapids, alleged both wrongful death as well as medical malpractice. The suit was filed against the Cherry Street Services location, which, as a federally supported center, used the U.S. Attorney’s Office as their representation. The federal government, throughout the lawsuit and settlement, denied any wrongdoing or that the child was cared for improperly.

The lawsuit arose from the child spiking a high fever and experiencing a bad cough, difficulty breathing and fatigue. A physician assistant at the clinic, Marguerite Sowers, did not recommend the baby be taken to an emergency room but rather go home with prescribed medication and return to the clinic or another healthcare facility later if symptoms worsened. The basis of this recommendation was a diagnosis of croup. The physician assistant did not note that the child was actively in distress at the time she rendered medical services.

Initially, the girl’s family took her home and administered the steroidal medication that was prescribed. They describe a short period of time when Annabelle’s symptoms seemed to improve after that medication. However, just hours later, the child collapsed and stopped breathing. Emergency services were able to revive her upon there arrive 10 minutes later but the child was immobile and unresponsive. After being admitted to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, the child went into unremitting seizures. Soon after, only comfort care was provided as it was determined the child would not be able to recover, having suffered severe brain damage.

Cases like the Dorey settlement are particularly disturbing, as the loss of a child is especially profound. Clinics, medical offices and hospitals around the country continue to face medical malpractice cases that may be fueled, in part, by shortages in key personnel. Langer & Langer, an Indiana medical malpractice firm, recently wrote about an article in the Journal of the American Medical Associationpointing to a direct correlation between nursing shortages and patient mortality.

Shortages aren’t just being experienced in the nursing ranks, however, but in many different medical professions including physician assistants and doctors. Whether the Dorey case was specifically impacted by such a shortage is unknown, but a study on healthcare safety shows that most personnel in federally qualified health centers like the Cherry Street Services practice believe their locations are continually understaffed. Serious reform is needed in the healthcare system overall to address shortages and overburdened patient loads so children like Annabelle don’t face the same bleak outcomes in the future.