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Orange County

Medical Board Will Probe Bad Death Call

November 13, 2003|Jeff Gottlieb | Times Staff Writer

The Medical Board of California said Wednesday that it is investigating whether physician mistakes occurred in the case of a 20-month-old Fullerton girl whom doctors mistakenly declared dead last week.

Brian Oxman, an attorney for the family of Mackayala Jespersen, said the toddler will suffer some disabilities. "This child is in trouble," Oxman said after visiting Mackayala at Children's Hospital of Orange County. "She's going to have impairment."

He said the girl's problems could include difficulty walking, speaking and grasping objects. Oxman added that Mackayala was fighting a lung infection, a result of having been on a ventilator. She has been removed from the machine.

A hospital spokeswoman said Mackayala was in serious but stable condition.

Emergency room doctors at Anaheim Memorial Hospital declared Mackayala dead Friday after she was found in the family's pool. The hospital has not named the doctors involved.

About 40 minutes later, a detective taking routine photos of the body noticed her chest moving and called for help.

Susan Solomon, a spokeswoman for Anaheim Memorial, said the hospital had not been notified of the investigation.

The medical board licenses doctors, investigates complaints and metes out discipline, which can include suspending or revoking a physician's license. The disclosure that the medical board was investigating came in response to questions from a Times reporter. Board spokeswoman Candis Cohen issued a statement that said, in part, "We are gathering information about it to determine if there was any physician misconduct."

Results will not become public unless the board files an accusation against a doctor.

Robert Miller, a spokesman for the state Department of Health Services, which regulates hospitals, said the agency found that Anaheim Memorial had followed protocol.

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