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TGH faces flesh-eating bacteria lawsuit

TAMPA — The widow of an intelligence officer at MacDill Air Force Base has filed suit against Tampa General Hospital alleging her husband contracted a fatal case of flesh-eating bacteria while a patient at TGH.

Jin-Sun Jones’ late husband, Army Master Sgt. James T. Jones IV, entered Tampa General on Jan. 21, 2011, after collapsing while jogging at MacDill. He was being treated for ventricular fibrillation when he died 10 days later.

The lawsuit claims an intravenous needle in Jones’ arm caused necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating bacteria.

The suit, filed in circuit court on Aug. 7, alleges negligence and wrongful death and seeks unspecified damages.

A county medical examiner reached a different conclusion in the case. After an autopsy, an associate medical examiner in March 2011 ruled it a natural death from cardiac arrhythmia due to hypertensive heart disease.

The lawsuit claims Tampa General staff failed to assess the issue of the IV infiltration and failed to intervene in time. It states hospital personnel did not adequately prevent the development of necrotizing fasciitis, pneumonia and cardiac arrest.

“Based upon our investigation of this death, we have a good-faith belief that this incident contributed to his death,” said Kimberley Kohn, attorney for Jin-Sun Jones.

A Tampa General spokesman declined to comment, citing hospital policy on lawsuits.

The suit claims that after Jones was admitted and the IV administered, the fluid entered the skin rather than a vein. It states that the IV caused necrotic blistering down Jones’ left forearm and through his hand.

The lawsuit states that Jones was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis. It was treated through a process called surgical debridement, or the removal of dead, damaged or infected tissue; during the second debridement, Jones died, the suit states.

The 43-year-old noncommissioned officer in charge of the Military Information Support Operations branch at MacDill left behind a son and stepchildren as well as his wife.

“This young man, who passed away at a very young age, suffered tremendously,” Kohn said. “This is a painful condition. It’s our position that it caused his death and that his wife and child should be compensated for that.”

Tampa General faces a similar lawsuit involving another intelligence specialist. In 2010, Lisa-Maria Carter contracted necrotizing fasciitis after outpatient surgery to remove an ovarian cyst, according to her lawsuit. She eventually lost her hands and feet and is in a nursing home.

She has also sued Tampa General and the University of South Florida, which employed her surgeon. That suit is proceeding in Hillsborough Circuit Court.

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