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Lawsuit accuses Arnold Palmer Hospital of boy’s death

Seven years after Spencer Beckstead died in hospital’s care, his father is still seeking justice

Photo: PHOTOS COURTESY OF JOHN BECKSTEAD, License: N/A

PHOTOS COURTESY OF JOHN BECKSTEAD

Photo: , License: N/A


“I informed him that he needed to contact Dr. Seibel,” she wrote. “He refused and said I should do it. I told him he needed to do it. I also told him Spencer does not need PICU Critical Care services. He can remain in [illegible] and be cared for by Dr. Seibel, but the critical care group will no longer be responsible for his care. … In the event he should become critically ill, the critical care services will transfer him to the [pediatric intensive care unit] to stabilize him and then transfer him to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg for ongoing care. Our role in his care will be to stabilize him only.”

According to Beckstead, who is now seven years deep in a medical malpractice suit against Orlando Regional Medical Center, Arnold Palmer Hospital, Critical Care Associates and a handful of physicians who cared for his son, including Dr. Mary Farrell, her partner in Critical Care Associates, Dr. John Tilelli, and Dr. Matthew Seibel, the notion that his son no longer needed critical care and should have been released from the unit is untrue. Despite what his doctors contend, he says – and medical records and court depositions support – that Spencer’s condition fluctuated. It could be hard to tell what was going on with him, or to determine what constituted “normal” for such an abnormal patient.

Nobody at Arnold Palmer Hospital would comment for this story because of the medical malpractice case that Beckstead brought against the hospital and its doctors. But according to court documents, Farrell’s decision to terminate the relationship with Beckstead as a patient was patient abandonment: “Dr. Farrell terminated Spencer as a patient, both for herself and every other intensivist in the hospital’s critical care physician group, without notice and without obtaining appropriate coverage,” Beckstead’s lawsuit says.

In her deposition for the case, Farrell, who is now chief of medical staff for Orlando Health, says she didn’t feel she had much choice but to tell Beckstead she could no longer care for Spencer after he complained to police about his son’s broken leg. “I was hurt because I was accused of being – abusing a child. I am hurt, and hurt to this day,” she said, noting that if Beckstead had issues with his son’s care, he should have talked to her. “You know, I was honest with Mr. Beckstead throughout all of my dealings with him, and I expected the same in return. And when that relationship – when he accused me of something, I – at that point, I could not. I could not under any circumstances take care of somebody who accused me of – and the mistrust that was going to be there. It’s like being unfaithful in a marriage. The trust is gone, and I couldn’t take care of him again.”

Four days after Spencer was transitioned to regular hospital care, he got sicker. “The staff, including the resident physicians and the hospitalist, either totally missed his progressive decline or looked the other way as Spencer’s medical condition deteriorated,” the court case says. Dr. Seibel was not on duty. Spencer’s heart rate and breathing sped up, and on the morning of Sept. 7, a nurse’s notes say they found Spencer to be “dusky,” lacking peripheral pulse, and seeming to be struggling to breathe. By the time a critical care intensivist was called to check in on him, it was too late. Spencer coded once again. Only this time, they weren’t able to bring him back.

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