The widow and children of a man who went to a rural Hawaii health center with a sore throat in 2013 and ended up dead will receive a $4.2 million settlement from the federal government, the widow's lawyer said Wednesday, per the AP. Antonio Marrero, 32, went to the emergency room of Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, where a doctor determined he had an abscess in his tonsils and arranged for him to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist, lawyer Richard Fried said. The doctor then decided to further evaluate him under sedation, but Marrero lost consciousness and died, Fried said. Before sedating him, the doctor should have known Marrero weighed nearly 300 pounds, which would make it difficult to protect his airway, the lawsuit filed by Fried notes. There was no anesthesiologist there, and the doctor gave Marrero too much of the sedative, Fried said.
At a news conference to announce the settlement, Marrero's wife, Rachel, recalled her shock when she was told the father of her three young sons had died. She told health center workers, "He just had a sore throat—what do you mean he passed?" After the presser, the health center's execs hugged her and offered condolences; they declined to disclose the ER doctor's name, but the suit named Dr. Robert Bonham. The health center implemented changes after the death, including a new ER director overseeing operations and a full-time compliance officer; a new ER facility is also set to be completed within a year. "I don't hate or judge," Rachel Marrero said. "I just hope ... the [center] does make everything better for other families." The feds will pay the settlement because the center is a federally qualified health center insured by the Federal Tort Claims Act, the center's CEO says. (Read more settlements stories.)