LAS VEGAS (AP) – Family members of a young mother who contracted tuberculosis blame a Las Vegas hospital for failing to diagnose her before she and at least one of her twin babies died of the illness this summer.
Lawyers for the family of 25-year-old Vanessa White announced Thursday that they plan to sue Summerlin Hospital Medical Center in her death, as well as the deaths of her two premature baby girls, Emma and Abigail.
“There were multiple diagnostic failures,” attorney Robert Cottle said at a press conference at his law office. “Three lives would’ve been saved had tuberculosis been thought of in May or June.”
The hospital issued a statement expressing sympathy for the family, but saying it took appropriate steps in the case.
“Medical experts who have already reviewed this matter have confirmed there was no reason to suspect that the patient had TB and an appropriate screening was performed,” the statement said.
Testing of family, friends and hospital employees conducted after White’s death in July found 26 people tested positive for the infection. Two of those had the contagious form, while the rest had inactive TB.
Health officials later expanded the testing to include about 140 babies and their family members who spent time in Summerlin Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit over the summer.
The results of that round of tests, initiated in October, have not been released.
White had been ill to various degrees before and after she gave birth prematurely in May. According to Cottle, doctors conducted multiple tests, but didn’t pursue the possibility of TB after a nurse screened for symptoms and ruled out the condition.
“No one connected the dots in this case, and as you can see, the dots were very obvious,” Cottle said.
It wasn’t until White died in California in July, and an autopsy was performed, that health workers found she had TB. Doctors tested one of her twins and began treating the girl, but she succumbed to the illness in August.
The other baby died in May but was never tested for the disease.
Officials with the Southern Nevada Health District said it appears White contracted the disease from an unpasteurized dairy product.
Lawyers plan to seek damages and changes in hospital policy.
The twins were the first children for White, who did clerical work at a dental office, and her husband, who described himself as a government worker. The couple had been married for three years at the time of her death.
“I would never wish this on anyone else,” said Ruben White, who choked up during the Thursday press conference as he talked about his wife and daughters. “You get the sense that sometimes life is not fair. My hope is that nobody else would have to go through this.”
Associated Press writer Hannah Dreier contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)