Doctors who treated N.S. teen who died of meningitis deny negligence

·2 min read
The two emergency room physicians who treated Kai Matthews are defending themselves against a lawsuit filed by the family of the 19-year-old who died of meningitis a year ago.  (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
The two emergency room physicians who treated Kai Matthews are defending themselves against a lawsuit filed by the family of the 19-year-old who died of meningitis a year ago. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

Two emergency room physicians being sued by the family of 19-year-old Kai Matthews are defending their actions in the hours after he sought care at the emergency department of the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.

Matthews died June 1, 2021 as a result of a bacterial infection just days after seeking medical help — first at home, then at the hospital — for a high fever and severe pain.

In May, his parents, Norrie and Kari Matthews, filed a lawsuit against the two emergency room doctors as well as Nova Scotia's health authority, accusing them of having failed "to provide timely and appropriate care" to their son.

In a statement of defence filed on behalf of doctors Nicholas Sowers and Ryan Henneberry, the emergency medicine specialists "deny that there was any negligent act or omission, or any breach of duty, breach of contract, negligence or malpractice" in their treatment of Matthews.

Paul Palmeter/CBC
Paul Palmeter/CBC

"The defendant physicians say that at all times they treated the patient prudently, skillfully, and in a competent manner consistent with the standards of medical practitioners in their respective areas of expertise," state the documents.

According to the court papers, the doctors say they "provided appropriate examinations ... as well, all necessary and appropriate examinations, tests, investigations, medications and procedures."

"The defendant physicians deny responsibility for the patient's medical conditions and subsequent death," the documents state. "The patient's medical conditions and death arose from pre-existing medical conditions or other unrelated causes."

In an amended notice of action filed after the June 15 defence statement by the doctors, the parents of Kai Matthews have added Emergency Health Services to their lawsuit.

Paramedics were called to the family's home early on the morning of May 31, 2021.

But, according to Kai's parents, EHS staff could not carry their son to hospital because he had not received the results of a COVID test. Norrie and Kari Matthews took their son to the QEII emergency department themselves.

According to the amended lawsuit, the family is accusing EHS of having provided "improper or inadequate medical care and attention," of having "improperly and/or inadequately assessed and managed symptoms" and for failing to recognize the symptoms of meningitis.

The claims have not been tested in court.

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