Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
WEST PALM BEACH — A Port St. Lucie couple has been awarded $7 million by a Palm Beach County jury that found a doctor at Palms West Hospital was negligent in the 2011 death of their 15-year-old son.
Testimony during a roughly two-week trial before Circuit Judge Donald Hafele this month showed that the death of Gregory Fils-Aime was preventable had he received appropriate treatment from Dr. Alberto Marante, said attorney Guy Rubin, who represents the boy’s parents, Jean and Ermeline Fils-Aime.
Healthy and active with a talent for basketball, the youth was transferred to Palms West from Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in St. Lucie County after he repeatedly suffered trouble breathing. While he initially was sent home, he returned to Palms West two weeks later and his condition worsened.
While Dr. Lon Barrow, an ears, nose and throat specialist, had arranged for the youth to be transferred to Holtz Children’s Hospital at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center for treatment of a rare, but curable, condition that causes air passageways to constrict, Marante intervened.
Marante decided to perform an emergency procedure in the boy’s room, Rubin said. He sedated Fils-Aimee and put a mask over his mouth that was equipped with a device to pump air into his lungs, he said. However, because the youth’s airway was constricted to the size of a cocktail straw, the air became trapped in his lungs.
Once the mask was removed, body fluids rushed into his lungs. The sedative relaxed his neck muscles, making it impossible for him to breath.
“The doctors who tried to save his life said the effect of the sedative was irreversible,” Rubin said. “It was basically a death spiral.”
Attorneys representing Marante weren’t immediately available for comment about whether they would appeal. The hospital also paid the couple $650,000 to settle the parents claims, according to state records.
The verdict, Rubin said, was bittersweet for the parents, who have two younger daughters. “They are pleased that justice was done,” he said. “It was a positive closure to a horrible situation.”
If the verdict stands, he said they hope to use the money to help other children, he said. “They just want to see young people do well,” Rubin said.