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Negligence blamed in death of former Texas US Rep. Johnson

Les Weisbrod, Johnson's family’s attorney, said medical negligence was to blame for her death, caused by an infection in her spine.
Negligence blamed in death of former Texas US Rep. Johnson
Posted at 7:52 PM, Jan 05, 2024

The family of former U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson said Thursday that the trailblazing Texas congresswoman, who died over the weekend at age 89, passed away after getting an infection, and accused a Dallas rehabilitation facility of neglect.

Johnson, who was the first registered nurse elected to Congress, died on Dec. 31 at her Dallas home. Les Weisbrod, her family’s attorney and Johnson's longtime friend, said at a news conference that her death was caused by an infection in her spine that developed after she was left in her own feces at Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation following back surgery.

Weisbrod said he has given notice to Baylor Scott & White Health System and Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation that the family intends to file a lawsuit for medical negligence over her death.

In a statement Thursday, Baylor Scott & White Health called Johnson "an inspiration to all," and said they are committed to working with her family and attorney.

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Weisbrod said it’s a case that Johnson herself had asked him to pursue weeks ago after she began suffering from complications from the infection.

"I thought it was going to be a case for the pain that she went through and the additional procedures she went through and the medical bills and that she was going to recover," he said. "And so it's very distressing for me that she succumbed to this."

On Sept. 21, Johnson's son found her lying in her own feces and urine at the rehabilitation facility, according to a news release from Weisbrod's office. Kirk Johnson said at the news conference Thursday that he had gone to the facility after his mother called to tell him she was getting no response from the call button. He said he arrived about 10 minutes later.

"Deplorable," he said. "She was being unattended to. She was screaming out in pain and for help."

The news release said that when Kirk Johnson couldn't find any nurses on the floor, he went to the administration office and the CEO accompanied him to his mother's room. When they arrived, staff members were cleaning up the feces.

The news release said that Eddie Bernice Johnson's orthopedic surgeon noted in his record that Johnson had some complications after the operation after being found in bed sitting in her own feces and three days later she began having "copious purulent drainage from the low lumbar incision."

The surgeon performed a surgical repair on the infected wound, and she was moved to a skilled nursing facility on Oct. 18 and went home on hospice care mid-December, the news release said.

The news release said that laboratory wound culture reports showed organisms directly related to feces.

Johnson served in the House for three decades, leaving office last January after repeatedly delaying her retirement. Johnson, who was the first Black chief psychiatric nurse at Dallas' Veterans Affairs hospital, became the first Black woman to chair the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and she also led the Congressional Black Caucus.

The White House said President Joe Biden was scheduled to travel to Dallas on Monday to pay respects to the late congresswoman. 

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