ELK GROVE (CBS13) - An Elk Grove woman says she can't get justice after emergency room mistake took her mother's life.
Home security video shows 74-year-old Gian Gill awake and alert, being wheeled out of her home by paramedics. Daughter Pali Gill, called 911 when her mom became short of breath. Hours later, Gian Gill was dead.
"I was really lucky to have a mother like that," said daughter, Pali Gill.
Pali, also seen in the video, thinks the loving matriarch of their family would be here still if the emergency room staff had listened. Pali says the nurse kept calling her mom a cancer patient, but her mom didn't have cancer.
"You know those dreams, you're in a panic and you're trying to get someone to listen and no one's listening?' recalled Pali.
The nurse administered Fentanyl, which the Center for Disease Control calls "a pain reliever 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine…approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced-cancer pain."
Pali says her mom's vitals immediately dropped.
"She's like, 'I'm going to die, I'm going to die,' I've never heard her say things like that," she said.
Pali says she hugged her mom tight, she went limp and died.
"I have no doubt. I know that Fentanyl killed her," said Pali.
The state department of public health confirms her mom was identified in the medical record as having a "history of cancer." Pali wants to hold the medical professionals accountable, but she's hit a snag.
"Nobody will take my mom's case," she said.
Consumer attorney Stuart Talley says there's a simple reason.
"They're just not economical for the attorneys," he said, explaining even a slam dunk medical malpractice case is complicated and expensive to fight.
"You have to have experts that are very, very expensive," he said.
And a law passed way back in 1975 caps payouts, limiting damages to $250,000 for non-economic losses, which are things like pain and suffering, and emotional anguish.
There is no cap for economic damages like the amount of the money the patient would've made to support their family, but Gian was 74, and didn't work.
"So if you're old and retired you don't get justice, but if you're young and affluent you do," said Talley.
250,000 in 1975 equals $1.2 million in today's dollars. So why not raise the cap?
The doctors and insurance lobbies have successfully fought to keep it.
The cap went before voters in 2014. But they rejected raising it after ads claimed it was detrimental to health care overall.
"The cost of healthcare will rise. That's the real story." claims the ad. "It will cost your family $1,000 more a year in health care cost.
A coalition representing medical professionals declined our request for an interview but defended the cap, officially known as MICRA (Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act). In a statement, Lisa Maas, Executive Director of Californians Allied for Patient Protection said:
"MICRA provides stability and offers an assurance that Californians will continue having access to doctors, nurses, hospitals and community clinics. That's why more than 1,000 statewide organizations representing physicians, dentists, nurses, hospitals, community clinics, emergency providers, public safety, local governments, labor unions, women's health advocates and other health care organizations share our commitment to protecting access to health care through MICRA.
Ultimately, when faced with a similar decision based on an initiative backed by trial lawyers, California voters realized that changes to MICRA would leave them with increased costs and decreased access to health care providers. That is why they resoundingly rejected the proposition by a 2-1 margin across the state."
Pali says she doesn't want to profit off her mom's death but thinks accountability could save lives.
"Seeing her die that way - it. just seemed so wrong," she said. "What my mom went through that day is worth some kind of fight, because I don't think anyone else should ever go through that."
Pali did find an attorney willing to help her file the paperwork needed to initiate a lawsuit on her own. Her first hearing is scheduled for December 2. If she cannot retain an attorney by that date, she plans to dismiss the case.
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