The parents of Emmalyn Nguyen are suing her doctors for wrongful death

By Julie Mazziotta
October 12, 2020 12:55 PM
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Emmalyn Nguyen
| Credit: David Woodruff

Emmalyn Nguyen had lived “in a permanent ‘semi-conscious’ state” since her surgery in August 2019, until her death on Oct. 4.

While Nguyen was in the hospital, her parents sued two of the doctors who allegedly administered anesthesia before the surgery, plastic surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Kim and nurse anesthetist Rex Meeker, for gross negligence.

Nguyen’s parents allege in the lawsuit that the doctors left her “unobserved” for 15 minutes after they administered the anesthesia, during which time she went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing. David Woodruff, the attorney representing Nguyen’s parents, told PEOPLE in December that the staff at Kim’s plastic surgery center allegedly performed CPR on Nguyen twice, and waited five-and-a-half hours before calling 911. Her parents were not immediately told their daughter had gone into cardiac arrest, Woodruff alleged.

“It appears that Emmalyn stopped breathing because of improper anesthesia, administered by a nurse instead of an anesthesiologist,” Woodruff said. “But the worst thing is she appears to have been left unattended, not breathing, for up to 15 minutes. It caused her to suffer a massive anoxic brain injury.”

“It is incomprehensible that a team of medical professionals, including a plastic surgeon, a nurse-anesthetist, and multiple nurses, would not call 911 for five and a half hours after performing CPR on their patient who had gone into cardiac arrest twice,” he said.

Emmalyn Nguyen
| Credit: David Woodruff

Nguyen required constant care, including a permanent feeding tube, after her brain injury, the lawsuit stated, and was facing “permanent mental and physical impairment.”

Lawyers for both Kim and Meeker previously told PEOPLE that they deny any claims made in the lawsuit. Kim’s medical license was initially suspended, but he reached an agreement with the Colorado Medical Board in March that allowed him to practice under a probationary status for the next three years, KDVR reported.

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“I don’t know what the board is thinking but I think that’s kind of unfair,” Nguyen’s father, Sonny, told the news outlet. “He nearly killed someone and he only gets three years probation?”

Nguyen had been living in a nursing home for the last few months while in a coma and recently developed pneumonia, which sent her into cardiac arrest over the first weekend of October. She was transferred to a hospital but again went into cardiac arrest multiple times over a 24-hour period before dying on Oct. 4.

Following Nguyen’s death, the lawsuit will now be a claim of wrongful death, Woodruff told KDVR.

“Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States,” he said. “Emmalyn’s parents believe it is important to tell Emmalyn’s story, not only to bring her some justice but also to help prevent this from ever happening to another patient.”