Danae Corrine Risch passed away on December 14, 2018, at the young age of 27 after suffering a heart attack while she was undergoing surgery to remove her gall bladder. Her medical team put her under “for the elective procedure, despite a known heart condition,” after her parents and legal guardians gave the go-ahead. Now, Risch’s mother, Ginger Caviness and Mark Risch are suing St. Charles Health System for $15 million for allegedly giving them “bad information and inappropriate recommendations” before the surgery.
Specifically, the suit, which was filed Wednesday in Deschutes County Circuit Court, names St. Charles surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Mathisen and anesthesiologist Dr. Blake Van Meter as defendants.
Danae Risch was under the care of her parents because she had a developmental disability and cerebral palsy. Back in 2009, she was diagnosed with a “rare form of muscular dystrophy and required the use of a wheelchair.” On November 7, 2018, she had to undergo a procedure at St. Charles to remove her gall bladder. The suit notes “a preliminary chest X-ray showed an enlargement of her heart that should have raised red flags with Mathisen and Van Meter.”
Additionally, before the procedure, Mathisen and Van Meter allegedly told Risch’s parents she had fluid around her lungs, but “reassured them this was common with gall bladders and was not a reason to postpone the surgery.” From there, Risch was “taken to the operating room and as anesthesia was being introduced, she went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing.” Though she was resuscitated and moved to the hospital’s care unit on a ventilator, she died two days later on November 14.
Before the surgery, Risch lived with her parents into adulthood where she was able to experience a full life, according to her mother. In 2009, Caviness wrote, “Danae, as ever, is enviably happy and a social star…She is funny and fun to be with. Danae has a developmental delay, as ever, but it never affects her personality.” She added that her daughter participated in “community activities, volunteered at her church, and enjoyed a close bond with her parents.”
In 2016, a probate commissioner wrote to Caviness and said, “Your commitment to Danae is obvious…You are fortunate to have such a close relationship.”
“They have suffered a welter of negative feelings of guilt, remorse, anguish, bewilderment, anger, betrayal, depression, and despair because of the decision to go forward with the elective procedure despite Danae Risch’s heart condition.”
This isn’t the first time the hospital has found itself on the receiving end of litigation. Back in 2019, a family sued the facility for $26.5 million after a woman died from a breast infection.