A Brookline woman filed a wrongful death lawsuit Thursday against UPMC Mercy and four physicians there alleging they failed to appropriately treat her husband because he had no health insurance.
Robin Tillman filed the complaint listing negligence and seeking punitive damages in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court on behalf of her husband, Dorian Tillman.
Susan Manko, a spokeswoman with UPMC, said that the health system sympathizes with the family but denies the allegations.
Dorian Tillman had previously been seen at the emergency room at UPMC Mercy twice for diverticulitis in 2010, and was admitted to the hospital for the same condition -- inflammation or an infection of the colon -- on Dec. 14, 2011.
After admission, according to the complaint, he had a CT scan of his abdomen and pelvis and the physician noted his concern there could have been a fistula, or hole.
Tillman was admitted to a non-monitored bed and given antibiotics, IV fluids and pain medication.
But no one ever performed surgery, which is "absolutely necessary" for recurring diverticulitis, said attorney Jason Luckasevic, who is representing Ms. Tillman.
The medical records cited in the lawsuit show two separate physicians indicated that, with one writing, "if clinical condition deteriorates will need ex lap," and another who said, "given the frequency of Mr. Tillman's episodes, he may benefit from elective resection if we can manage this bout with antibiotics."
But the surgery was never performed, and a second CT scan scheduled for Dec. 15 was canceled. That test, Mr. Luckasevic said, "would have absolutely shown the fistula" and revealed the life-threatening condition.
Instead, the only treatment Tillman received was pain management.
Tillman, 40, died about 3:15 a.m. on Dec. 16 from acute peritonitis.
"This is all because we didn't have insurance," Ms. Tillman said during a news conference announcing the lawsuit. "We were looking for it. We just couldn't afford it. At what point did [the doctors] decide my husband's life wasn't worth something?
"How do you let somebody die because of no money?"
Mr. Luckasevic said that Tillman's lack of health insurance was noted in his medical files, which he found to be unusual.
"I was shocked to see medical records actually reference the fact he didn't have insurance," the lawyer said.
Mr. Luckasevic also noted that hospital personnel did not record the man's vital signs for some 14 hours before he died.
Paula Reed Ward: email@example.com or 412-263-2620.