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‘Baby Ryan’ Health Woes Not Negligence Lawsuit Against Sacred Heart, Doctors Dismissed

A two-year-old lawsuit stemming from the ordeal of Baby Ryan Nguyen ended Friday when a Spokane judge ruled that the infant’s severe medical problems were not caused by medical negligence.

The decision by Superior Court Judge Michael Donohue means that the parents of Baby Ryan cannot seek damages from Sacred Heart Medical Center and four doctors who cared for the premature infant after his birth in October 1994.

Donohue said in his ruling that most of the evidence shows Ryan’s medical problems occurred before his birth, not after.

“I’m disappointed,” said Dustin Deissner, who helped represent the Nguyen family in the suit.

Deissner said he and co-counsel Russel Van Camp plan to appeal Donohue’s decision.

Michael Myers, who represented three Sacred Heart neonatologists, said the ruling removes the tarnish that fell upon the hospital and the doctors three years ago.

“The nut of the decision is that the physicians provided good care,” Myers said. “Unfortunately for all concerned, Baby Ryan was born with several severe physical defects.”

Ryan’s case drew national attention when his parents obtained a court order a month after his birth, ordering Sacred Heart to perform kidney dialysis, which staff had tried to stop.

Born six weeks premature, Ryan suffered severe medical problems, including brain damage, kidney malfunction and bowel obstruction.

Hospital physicians said Ryan’s condition was beyond their care level.

Ryan’s parents, Nghia “Jack” Nguyen and Darla Nguyen, accused the hospital of deciding their son should be left to die.

Hospital officials insist that statement was never made to the Nguyens.

The couple eventually took Ryan to Legacy Emanuel Children’s Hospital in Portland, where he’s been receiving extensive medical care. He turns 3 on Monday.

The civil suit, filed in April 1995, claimed the hospital was negligent in discontinuing kidney dialysis before Ryan was taken to Portland.

Named along with Sacred Heart as defendants were Drs. Carl Bodenstein, Priscilla Hancock and Hrair Garabedian of Sacred Heart and Dr. Robert Benedetti of the Rockwood Clinic.

Attorneys for the Nguyens never listed the amount they were seeking in damages.

If the suit had gone to trial, they would have set a specific figure to compensate for what they claimed were personal injuries and ongoing medical care for Ryan.

Donohue’s decision followed a motion to dismiss the suit, which was filed earlier this year by attorneys for the doctors and hospital.

Among several claims in the suit, the Nguyens argued that Ryan would be healthier today if Sacred Heart’s physicians had provided ongoing dialysis from Nov. 9 to Nov. 22, 1994.

Hospital attorneys denied that claim, saying there is no medical proof that delayed dialysis had any impact on Ryan’s condition.

Many physicians reviewed the records and nearly all agreed that the denial of dialysis made little difference, said the attorneys.

Only one doctor, Paul Byrne of Toledo, Ohio, said he believed dialysis would have left Ryan with fewer bowel complications.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo