Ex-doctor charged in death of patient
FORT WORTH - A former Fort Worth physician was indicted Monday on a murder charge stemming from allegations that she suffocated a patient in 2000 by blocking the woman's breathing tube.
The accused, Lydia Grotti, whose medical license was revoked this month by the State Board of Medical Examiners, surrendered at the Tarrant County Jail and was quickly released on $25,000 bail.
Jeff Kearney, Grotti's attorney, said the former physician was shocked by the indictment.
"We are establishing a dangerous new precedent in the criminal justice system when a prosecutor can lead a group of untrained citizens to second-guess decisions that critical-care medical professionals are required to make every day in hospitals throughout this country," Kearney said.
Grotti was working in the intensive care unit at John Peter Smith Hospital in December 2000 when she allegedly blocked the endotracheal tube of Lettie McGhee, a 64-year-old woman who had gone into cardiac arrest at the hospital.
Grotti has testified in a state hearing that she had pronounced McGhee dead an hour before blocking the tube and had obstructed the airway only to stop agonal respirations, or breaths that occur at death as the brainstem deteriorates. She testified that although she regrets blocking the tube, McGhee was already dead.
Rob Freyer, a special prosecutor from the Harris County District Attorney's Office, could not be reached to comment. Freyer was assigned to oversee the criminal investigation to avoid a conflict of interest by the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office, which represents county-funded John Peter Smith Hospital.
Homicide Detective Sarah Jane Waters of the Fort Worth Police Department said she was not surprised by the grand jury's decision.
"In this situation we're dealing with a suspect who's supposed to be trying to save these people," Waters said. "The final conclusion was not only did she not do everything in her power to save this person, she hastened her death."
Grotti became the focus of a police and state board investigation more than two years ago after allegations that she played a role in the deaths of McGhee and another patient, Charles "Woody" O'Keefe, a 33-year-old diabetic who died 10 hours after he was admitted to JPS for hypoglycemia. Grotti was accused of prescribing O'Keefe a lethal dose of morphine.
Grotti, employed by the physicians group that contracts with JPS, has not worked at the hospital since the JPS board of managers suspended her privileges to treat patients there in June 2001.
On Oct. 10, despite a recommendation by two administrative law judges that Grotti be allowed to keep her license and rehabilitate her medical career, the State Board of Medical Examiners revoked her medical license.
Although the board did not sanction Grotti for her actions surrounding O'Keefe's death, it voted 13-1 to revoke her license in connection with McGhee's death.
Grotti can request a rehearing with the state board or appeal to state district court.
"We intend to fully exercise our right to appeal the revocation of her license," said Brian Esenwein, who has represented Grotti in the state board investigation.
Esenwein and Kearney said that in the past 34 months, three independent panels of medical professionals -- including two peer reviews -- considered evidence in the case and concluded that Grotti did not cause McGhee's death.
"The people that have been objective and slowed down to listen to the evidence have always sided with Lydia on these issues -- found she didn't harm the patients," Esenwein said.
"Ms. McGhee did not die as a result of Dr. Grotti's action. She died of cardiac arrest, which was a complication of her terminal cancer," Kearney said."She was clinically and legally dead for over an hour before Dr. Grotti is alleged to have caused her death. "
"To have a grand jury consider something for two hours and come up with a different conclusion is pretty shocking to all of us."
Paul McGhee, whose father, the late Rev. Ernest McGhee, was married to Lettie McGhee at the time of her death, said he was pleased with the grand jury's decision.
"She was just like my mother," Paul McGhee said. "I just feel on this issue that whatever they see right, that's fitting."
Deanna Boyd, (817) 390-7655
The Chilling Story of
Lydia Grotti M.D. Internist
Dr. Grotti was a double Boarded ICU-Specialist who worked for years in a ICU in a County Hospital with no malpractice suits or Board complaints. Then she gave a terminal patient 16 mg of Morphine in a one hour push. And that action changed her life and stopped her career COLD.
She was "Peer Reviewed" and she passed it. Then this case was labeled as "homicide by morphine". She is out her career, her license suspended by the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners and faces future criminal charges of death of a patient for doing exactly, positively what MDs in her specialty do.
In her own words, Dr. Grotti gives her story with the relevant facts below.
On June 27, 2001, my privileges were summarily suspended at JPS/TCHD by the District's Board of Managers regarding concern over the care I rendered to a patient in the Emergency Department on December 26, 2000.
As of June 12, 2001, I was on probation pursuant to action by the Medical Staff Executive Committee as a result of a peer review inquiry into that patient care incident. I was complying with the requirements that the Medical Executive Committee had requested at the time the Board of Managers summarily suspended my privileges on June 27, 2001.
The Medical Staff Peer Review committee and Medical Staff Executive Committee felt evidence supporting suspension of my clinical privileges was lacking and notified the Board of Managers in writing of that conclusion. I was still employed by my medical group (NTAMG), pending termination of the suspension by the Board of Managers, at 90 days post suspension and therefore was in breach the terms of my employment contract. NTAMG gave me 30 days to resolve the suspension and return to work or my employment would be terminated.
A Fair Hearing regarding the suspension commenced on Oct. 1st and the five day hearing was completed on Oct. 26th after one continuation. The suspension was not terminated, therefore, my employment was terminated by NTAMG. The unanimous recommendation of the five-physician Fair Hearing panel, joined by one alternate member, was released on Dec. 10, 2001. The panel recommended immediate termination of the suspension and reinstatement of my privileges under the terms and conditions previously delineated by the Peer Review and Medical Executive Committees.
On Dec. 18, 2001 the Medical Executive Committee agreed with the panel and its recommendation that my suspension be terminated was forwarded to the Hospital Board of Managers for a decision. On January 25, 2002 no decision was made by the Board of Managers. They decided to send the issue back to the Medical Staff Executive Committee for reconsideration and clarification of certain points.
On February 11, 2002 the MSEC met and wrote a letter back to the Board of Managers and reiterated their former position and clarified the issues that the Board had raised. At present, no decision from the Board of Managers regarding the suspension has been forthcoming, with no explanation for the delay and despite several letters from my lawyer asking directly why a decision hasn't been made.
A second peer review was conducted without my knowledge in the fall of 2001, consisting of a chart review of my terminally weaned/extubated patients, essentially, my end of life care in the ICU at JPS/TCHD. It was decided, without interviewing me, to add restrictions to the Peer review and Medical Staff Executive committees' recommendations to the board. I was notified February 19, 2002 in writing of the new restrictions. I asked for a fair hearing and was granted same on March 7, 2002 which concluded on April 10, 2002 after one continuance.
The hearing resulted in the Medical Staff and Peer Review committees recommending 4 additional restrictions to my privileges while on probation but recommended immediate reinstatement, again. That letter was dated April 24, 2002 and despite requests to have a meeting with the Board of Managers personally and requests for a decision to be made, there has not been one forthcoming.
Lydia Grotti M.D.
Chilling? Yes. What can you do? Help spread the word. This is the type of non-sensational case that needs the greatest exposure possible. We need letters of support for her. HUNDREDS, THOUSANDS. Please help.
Letters can be sent to:
Lydia Grotti M.D.
c/o The Center For Peer Review Justice, Inc
4051 Veterans Suite 206
Metairie, LA 70002
(The complete story will be presented on her website http://www.LydiaGrotti.com)
For additional information contact:
Richard B. Willner, President
The Center for Peer Review Justice, INC.
L.E. Levinson M.D. Library of Peer Review
Globe Homestead Bank Bldg
4051 Veterans Blvd, Suite 206
Metairie, LA 70002
Email: [email protected]
Legal Dept: [email protected]