Hospital sued for negligence in treatment of former activist

South Carolina residents may be interested in hearing about recent events that have followed the 2012 death of Russell Means, a prominent American Indian activist. The widow of the activist, who died of cancer at the age of 72, is suing a New Mexico hospital for medical malpractice and wrongful death, saying that the hospital failed to diagnose her husband’s esophageal cancer until it had already spread throughout his body.

According to the widow’s complaint, the hospital suggested that the symptoms that Means was experiencing, including difficulty swallowing and spitting up blood, were possibly caused by an enlarged tonsil when the man went into the hospital in 2011. However, Means had undergone a tonsillectomy as a child. The former leader of the American Indian Movement and member of the Oglala Lakota tribe had been an activist since the 1960s when he began protesting the use of American Indian images as sports mascots. In 1973, the activist protested the federal government’s mistreatment of American Indians by occupying a village at Wounded Knee in South Dakota for 72 days at the site of an 1890 massacre of Lakotas by U.S. troops.

Fellow members of the AIM praised Russell Means as a visionary. The hospital said that while it felt sympathy for the friends and family of Means, it denied any accusations of professional negligence, and it noted that the New Mexico Medical Review commission had unanimously voted that the hospital had not been negligent in treating him.

Doctors and nurses owe a special duty of care to everyone seeking treatment in their facilities. If a person believes that he or she has been the victim of negligence at the hands of hospital staff a physician, that person may want to speak with an attorney who evaluates medical malpractice claims.

Source: Reuters, “Widow of American Indian activist sues doctors over his death“, Keith Coffman, June 26, 2014