Gary Wheelis, then 63, was enjoying a meal on December 12, 2012, when he began to choke on a piece of his food. Wheelis was not able to dislodge the obstruction, but he made it to the Backus Hospital, located in Norwich, Connecticut, before it was too late. Or so he thought.
The attending physician was able to remove what was found to be a piece of chicken from his throat, but Wheelis experienced a minor stroke shortly after. And according to a medical malpractice lawsuit, filed in 2014 on behalf of Wheelis’ estate, in response to the stroke the doctors administered Heparin, which is an anticoagulant or a blood thinner.
“He was in the recovery room and he experienced a minor stroke and that is when everything unraveled,” said one of the attorneys representing Wheelis’ estate. “There were a lot of people involved who were not paying attention to this patient.”
The lawsuit claims that the Backus Hospital staff overlooked the fact that Wheelis, a veteran of the Vietnam War, was already on blood thinners and that the Heparin allegedly led to his death two days later. The lawyers representing Wheelis’ estate claimed in the lawsuit that if not for the negligence of the doctors, their client would still be alive. After nearly three years of litigation Jean Wheelis, who lost her husband of 26 years, decided to settle the lawsuit for $2,650,000.
“She essentially watched her husband enter the hospital with a very minor medical issue, turn into his death a couple of days later,” said Wheelis’ lawyer. “It was incredibly shocking to her and resulted in her being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Coverys, a medical professional liability insurance company, reportedly covered $2 million of the settlement on behalf of Dr. Yahya Qureshi, who allegedly ordered the injection of Heparin. Norwich Medical Associates, Backus Hospital, and Dr. Anthony Alessi were also named as defendants in the lawsuit, but it is not clear who will be paying for the remaining $650,000. Dr. Qureshi claimed in a deposition that Dr. Alessi, of Neuro Diagnostics, recommended the Heparin. Dr. Alessi vehemently rejected that claim.