A woman sues the hospital after her husband faints from seeing an epidural

Man faints, dies after seeing an epidural: The wife is suing the hospital

“A California woman is suing a hospital for wrongful death because her husband fainted and suffered a fatal injury after helping delivery room staff give her a pain-killing injection.

Jeanette Passalaqua, 32, filed the suit against Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Southern California Permanente Medical Group Inc. in San Bernardino County state court last week.

In June 2004, Passalaqua’s husband, Steven Passalaqua, was asked by Kaiser staff to hold and steady his wife while an employee inserted an epidural needle into her back, court papers said.

The sight of the needle caused Steven Passalaqua, 33, to faint and he fell backward, striking his head on an aluminum cap molding at the base of the wall.

Jeanette Passalaqua delivered the couple’s second child, a boy, later that day. Steven Passalaqua, however, suffered a brain hemorrhage as a result of his fall and died two days later, the lawsuit said.

The suit seeks unspecified damages related to Steven Passalaqua’s death and to Jeanette Passalaqua’s emotional distress at being widowed with two young children.”

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  • Maurice Bernstein, M.D.

    This should provide added caution regarding allowing husbands in the delivery room. Would a written consent prior to entry removing all responsibility from the hospital have been appropriate? The same situation could exist in allowing families to watch CPR on their loved ones as some hospitals do. ..Maurice.

  • Judy

    I think there’s just a little difference between letting a man stay in the room for the birth and asking him to assist in the placement of a rather impressive needle. I’ve been present at a lot of births, and only once has a dad required medical care. Several have had to sit down, but only one needed assistance — and he was 15.

    Good point about resuscitations. Allowing family members to watch resuscitations can also be hazardous to staff. There is certainly a potential for injury to family members, but definitely a risk to staff when there is disagreement about when to call the code.

  • Anonymous

    From what I know, anesthesiologists usually kick the family out during epidural placement. Many patients don’t like this, as they hope to rely on their families for support. The question is: what if something like that happens during birth (however small the chance of that happening is)? Would hospitals change their policies then ?

  • GG

    I’m not clear on exactly what the man was asked to do. When my wife had epidurals put in for the births of our two children, I was asked to hold her hand and talk to her for comfort. That seems perfectly reasonable to me. I didn’t watch the actual epidural because I was facing her. I’m not sure if it’s reasonable to ask the hospital to predict these situations. The only way to be absolutely safe is to ban all family from the delivery.

    I cannot imagine how awful it would be to lose one’s spouse because of an event that happened during the birth of a child. The emotional trauma this woman has undergone must be severe, and the long term impact for her and the children is a tragedy. But I’m not convinced she has a case against the hospital.

  • Anonymous

    But I’m not convinced she has a case against the hospital.

    LOL. In America, she’d have a case if the color of the walls gave her husband a headache.

  • Anonymous


    I think there are a number of questions to answer before determining who is at fault.

    One, is asking him to hold her steady (not just comfort her, but actually assist them) while they inserted the epidural something hospital personnel should have been doing?

    Two, if it is, was failing to ascertain if the father had the requisite skill to do so (in that situation) something they should have determined before asking him to do it? If there had been a nurse in there to do it, you’d know that the sight of the needle or blood wasn’t going to faze her. Is it forseeable that it might a layperson?

    I don’t know the answer, but based on the limited info we have, I’d guess those were the theories of the case.


  • Anonymous

    So if he had fallen in the waiting room when told “you’re a father” and busted his head open, you’re saying a lawyer wouldn’t try to sue the hospital then? I’ve had family members suffer syncope in treatment areas while I suture a patient, thank god none ever busted their heads open, I have enough malpractice risk from the 5,000 patient charts I sign a year. Where does it ever end?

  • Anonymous

    the hospital probably couldn’t afford holding help because they were spending too much of their budget on risk management legal advisors.

  • Anonymous

    You know what’s downright scary? Liawyers like CJD are actually serious when they say things like: “you know, the doctors may have committed medical malpractice when they failed to ascertain that a husband (who requested of his own volition to participate in his wife’s childbirth) had the necessary qualifications and certifications to hold her.”

    This is so incredibly stupid and ridiculous it’s not funny. When are people going to grow up and take responsibility (for their actions and choices) and accept that in life, unforseeable unfortunate things can happen?

  • Curious JD

    “So if he had fallen in the waiting room when told “you’re a father” and busted his head open, you’re saying a lawyer wouldn’t try to sue the hospital then?”

    Got a case in mind? My guess is as usual you don’t, Chicken Little.

    “When are people going to grow up and take responsibility (for their actions and choices)”

    Best argument against damage caps I’ve ever seen. Bravo!!

  • Anonymous

    It’s common–at least in SoCal hospitals–for a dad or other nonmedical support person to stand at the bedside, allowing the laboring woman to rest her head against the support person’s chest. They aren’t restraining her; rather, they are there to comofort her as she experineces contractions during the procedure or to calm her. The doc makes an effort to work with the laboring woman, timing the administration to be safe and expeditious. A doc wouldn’t continue on with the administration of the epidural if the woman was moving enough to require restraining. If that dad saw the needle, he would have had to look over her shoulder at the work being done to her lower back. What happened was an unforseen tragedy and no one is liable. To suggest that family members should be prevented from attending what is a joyous event for the vast majority is an overreaction.

  • montana

    This is my brother that everyone is talking about.This is uncalled for it should of never happen.He was a good dad it is little girl and he couldn’t wait for his son to get here.The hospital killed him all they wouldnt was the money they could of saved him.I live in montana when i had my kids my husband was sitting down when i got mine so if they would of had him sitting down and had more staff in there i would have my little brother here today and his kids would have a dad.

  • Anonymous

    Its funny how people just talk down on people when they dont even know the whole story. This man was a good father and husband and was just nervous about all that was going on. If Kaiser was a good hospital and had good staff they would have known to make him sit. And he would be with his family right now.

  • Anonymous

    This situation is CLEARLY an unfortunate accident.I cannot BEGAN to see where the hospital is responsible/liable. Loved ones are usually there to comfort/assist their own family members so that they’re comfortable… We have to take responsibility for OUR own actions. Since this was a “second” child and the father was “excited” he (perhaps) would remember how “excited” he was the first time around…so, he has to decide for HIMSELF his own limitations? How many fathers present in the delivery room cannot (merely) comfort/assist their spouse? Otherwise, why would they request to be present in the first place? I feel badly for the family and their loss. NO NEGLIGENCE TO HOSPITAL OR STAFF -

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