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June 11, 2021
By: Andrés J. Gallegos, Jennifer M. Sender

ROBBINS, SALOMON & PATT, LTD. SEEKS JUSTICE FOR MICHAEL HICKSON,

FILES WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUIT AGAINST ST. DAVID’S SOUTH AUSTIN MEDICAL CENTER & ITS PHYSICIANS

Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd. (RSP) on June 10, 2021, filed a multi-count wrongful death lawsuit against St. David’s South Austin Medical Center (SDMC) and two of its physicians, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division. Despite the absence of an irreversible or terminal condition, SDMC physicians deprived Mr. Michael Hickson, a 46-year-old black man with multiple disabilities, of all life-sustaining treatment including artificial nutrition and hydration for six days resulting in his death.

Admitted to SDMC on June 2, 2020, Mr. Hickson was fighting sepsis, a urinary tract infection and pneumonia. Although he had suspected COVID–19, he had a negative COVID-19 test several days prior to his admission. While seriously ill, all of those conditions were treatable. In fact, only three months prior, SDMC successfully treated him for sepsis, urinary tract infection and pneumonia. Upon admission, SDMC assessed Mr. Hickson having a 70% chance of survival. Almost immediately thereafter, however, SDMC physicians determined he was not worth treating and crafted a plan of “comfort care” only.

Antibiotics were initially provided, and lab results determined they were effective. Mr. Hickson’s physicians even identified the specific bacterial organism at the root of his infection.  Yet, only three days later, they abruptly withdrew the antibiotics and all life-sustaining treatment, designated Mr. Hickson as Do Not Resuscitate, and placed him in hospice. When pressed for an explanation as to why they would not treat him, in a legally recorded conversation, Dr. Viet Vo told Mrs. Melissa Hickson, “as of right now, his quality of life, he doesn’t have much of one.” Dr. Vo then distinguished Mr. Hickson from other of his patients who were being treated aggressively for COVID–19, “his quality of life is different than theirs. They were walking, talking.”

The lawsuit asserts multiple counts of disability-based discrimination, gross medical negligence, wrongful death and deprivation of Mr. Hickson’s constitutional right to life, against SDMC and two of its physicians, Dr. Vo and Dr. Carlye Mabry Cantu. The lawsuit also asserts a count of intentional infliction of emotional distress against SDMC and Dr. DeVry Anderson, its Chief Medical Officer. Among other matters, from June 8 to June 11, 2020, SDMC denied Mrs. Hickson access to her husband, even denying FaceTime visits, claiming the hospital’s iPad was not working on those days. An incredulous claim from a hospital with reported gross patient revenue of over $4.7 billion in 2019.  On July 2, 2020, Dr. Anderson released a media statement concerning Mr. Hickson, demeaning Mrs. Hickson and disclosing his protected health information, falsely stating he had consent from Mr. Hickson’s family. The complaint is available here.

RSP’s litigation efforts are led by Andrés J. Gallegos and Jennifer M. Sender. RSP is co-counseling with Whitburn and Pevsner, PLLC.