Authorities in Los Angeles County are investigating an accusation that an anesthesiologist purposely administered a powerful painkiller to a dying boy in order to speed up his death and harvest his organs.
Los Angeles Times reports that Dr. Judith Brill, 65, of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, is the subject of an investigation after allegations were made that she purposely gave an 8-year-old boy 500 micrograms of opioid fentanyl, intended to accelerate his impending death. The boy, Cole Hartman, went into cardiac arrest after almost drowning in a washing machine at his family’s Castaic home in California, in 2013.
According to court documents, Cole’s father came inside their home after mowing the lawn and found the boy with his head submerged in a running washing machine. Cole’s father and step-mother told authorities that he could have possibly been stuck in the washing machine for up to 25 minutes.
After a frantic 911 call, paramedics arrived at Cole’s residence. Though their efforts were successful in getting his heart to beat again, when Cole arrived at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, he was already in life-threatening condition and in a coma. He was immediately put on a life support ventilator.
Due to the child’s grave condition, the Hartman family made the tough decision to remove him from life support and donate his organs. Around 23 minutes after he was removed from the ventilator an anesthesiologist pronounced Cole dead.
Although the incident happened four years ago, the Los Angeles police and the District Attorney’s office are now investigating the incident after a coroner’s report indicated that the anesthesiologist gave Cole a fatal dose of opioid fentanyl, which helped to increase the time of death, and also increase the likelihood that his organs could be preserved for donation.
Dr. Brill’s lawyer, Mark Werksman, wrote in an email that the allegations against this client were “factually wrong and patently offensive.” He also wrote that Dr. Brill’s “only concern was to assure that this child, who had drowned and was never going to recover, would not suffer any pain following the removal of life support.”
During the time that Cole was given the powerful painkiller, a coroner investigator, Denise Bertone, had concerns about the high dosage. Bertone pressed for authorities to re-examine the case. She filed the “whistle-blower” lawsuit against Brill last month, which also indicated that she was treated negatively at work following the claim, and removed from work in the pediatric unit.
Captain William Hayes of the LAPD Robbery Homicide, said that the case was complicated and will take a while for the investigation to conclude.