Woman blames doctors for toddler son's death

MARTINSBURG - A Jefferson County woman has filed a suit against two doctors at City Hospital after her son was denied treatment and ultimately died because the necessary surgery was denied until she could provide a medical card.

April M. Longerbeam filed the suit Sept. 9 in Berkeley Circuit Court on behalf of her son, Andrew E. Longerbeam. The suit is against physicians Garrison V. Morin and John W. Ellis, as well as Salutis Emergency Specialists, P.L.L.C.

Morin and Ellis are doctors at City Hospital in Berkeley County. Salutis Emergency Specialists employs Ellis.

According to the suit, on Aug. 22, 2006, 3-year-old Andrew Longerbeam began to experience a sore throat, coughing that expelled secretions and blood.

April Longerbeam took her son to the Emergency Department of Jefferson Memorial Hospital for evaluation. After waiting for several hours, Longerbeam was advised the hospital was under "Code Red" and the wait would be longer.

According to the suit, Longerbeam decided to return home, but called 911 that evening with a report that her son was experiencing swelling in his throat, and having difficult swallowing and was vomiting blood.

An ambulance and EMTs were dispatched to the Longerbeam home and it was confirmed that Andrew Longerbeam was suffering from swollen tonsils, the suit says. He was taken to City Hospital in Martinsburg.

According to the suit, Andrew Longerbeam was first evaluated by John W. Ellis, who performed a strep test. During the morning, Ellis transferred the case to Morin, a ear, nose and throat specialist.

"In the late morning hours of Aug. 23, 2006, Dr. Morin had a conversation with April Longerbeam in which he indicated that Andrew E. Longerbeam would eventually need his tonsils removed and he inquired about how he would be compensated for such a problem," the suit says.

April Longerbeam told Morin her son would qualify for a medical card, which would take two week to receive. The suit says Morin told her he would see her son at his office the next day and schedule a tonsillectomy for two weeks later.

Andrew Longerbeam was discharged from City Hospital Aug. 23 and returned home, still experiencing a sore throat, pain and discomfort.

According to the suit, Longerbeam stayed with his grandparents on the evening of Aug. 23, 2006. The following morning, when attempts were made to wake him, Andrew Longerbeam was found unresponsive.

He was taken to Jefferson Memorial Hospital, where he was designated "Code Blue" and flight services took him to Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He never regained consciousness and was declared dead Aug. 25, 2006, the suit says.

According to the suit, an autopsy performed confirmed the existence of epiglottis and an acute infection of the throat, which blocked Longerbeam's airway, causing respiratory and cardiac arrest.

In the three-count suit, April Longerbeam claims Ellis and Morin are responsible for her son's death. Longerbeam claims Moris displayed negligence by basing his medical decision on the financial status of the patient and the patient's family, the suit says.

Longerbeam seeks special and general compensatory damages from the defendants.

Attorney Joseph R. Ferretti is representing Longerbeam. The case has been assigned to Judge David Sanders.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 08-C-1161

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