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Poor Infection Control Led to Elderly Woman's Suicide

86-year-old woman who jumped from building left note saying pain in her knee caused by staph infection was unbearable.

Published: July 17, 2013

A malpractice verdict has been upheld against a Georgia clinic that treated an 86-year-old woman who later committed suicide by jumping from a 14th-story window, leaving behind a note that said the pain in her knee was unbearable.

A jury found that the infection-control practices at Georgia Clinic, P.C., were wholly inadequate and that Cho Kim's suicide was the indirect result of an MSSA (methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus) infection she contracted when an injection to treat her arthritis was administered by a physician's assistant under non-sterile conditions.

The medication was drawn from a multi-dose vial, and 4 other patients contracted MSSA from the same vial over a 5-day period, according to court records.

Alarmed by the outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with other health professionals, later investigated the clinic and found "abundant evidence of poor infection control practices," constituting "a serious threat to public health."

Yong Kwon, P.A., Naresh Parikh, M.D., and William Eyzaguirre, M.D., were also named as defendants. The charges included allegations that Kwon and his supervisors failed on several occasions to address symptoms of depression and anxiety on the part of Ms. Kim. She killed herself in 2009, after writing a note that said in Korean, "pain in leg ... I can't take it no more ... better to die ... I'm sorry."

The jury awarded $400,000 in compensatory damages to Ms. Kim's next of kin, $500,000 as part of a wrongful death claim, and $2.5 million in punitive damages. The punitive award was reduced to $250,000 because there was no finding that the defendants intentionally caused harm.

Jim Burger

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