Georgia Douglas was a beautiful, vital young woman with an infectious smile who loved life, laughter and learning. She had a special affinity for children. Her Gig Harbor community thought of her as the “pied piper” because everyone loved her enthusiasm and kindness. Since the third grade, Georgia worked in the area of child care, first babysitting and then taking college courses relating to education and child development. She took a teaching position at Kindercare and obtained her Child Development Associate Certificate. She was just one “site inspection” away from certification for her own licensed day care center, and had a wonderful future before her doing what she most loved – providing encouragement, care and guidance for young children.
On May 8, 2006 Georgia had jaw realignment surgery at a well-known Seattle hospital. The surgery went well. Post-surgery care did not. Georgia and her mother, Joyce, had an exceptionally close relationship, and Joyce was at Georgia’s bedside constantly after surgery. On May 9th, Joyce expressed concern about her daughter’s care and discovered that Georgia’s nurses had never treated a patient who had undergone maxillary and mandibular osteotomies. She also learned that recovery treatment differed for these patients, particularly in light of the massive swelling of the face and neck. Georgia’s surgeon requested a nurse experienced in jaw surgery recovery to take over Georgia’s care for an hour and to inform Joyce and Georgia’s nursing staff of the specific care required by these patients.
On the evening of the 9th, Joyce was exhausted and was encouraged to return to her nearby hotel to get some rest. She was assured that Georgia’s care was well in hand. Within an hour of her return to the hotel, Joyce received a call that Georgia had choked on liquid a nurse had given her to drink unassisted. Although suction was attempted, Georgia lost consciousness and her heart stopped. Hospital staff was unable to revive her in time to prevent brain death. She was 27 years old. The hospital has never attempted to contact Georgia’s family.
Joyce sought to hold the hospital accountable for their negligence, but found the search to obtain a lawyer willing to take the case difficult. “I, as a parent who has suffered one of the most grievous losses imaginable”, says Georgia’s mother, “am unfairly restricted in the recovery of damages because Georgia was over 18 years old and had no children.” “It is unforgivable to allow the health care industry to continue to benefit financially at the cost of a life caused by their negligent patient care.”
Parents should have a right to seek justice on behalf of their lost child regardless of age.
Joyce and her family join the swelling ranks of those supporting a change in Washington’s outdated wrongful death laws.