Free Legal Consultations Available 24/7
206-727-4000 or 866-595-3565

Mother Sues Seattle Children's Hospital for Death of Son

Posted on Sep 28, 2009

Fifteen year-old old boy dies from massive overdose of narcotic pain medication following a routine dental procedure.

September 29, 2009, Seattle, WA –Seattle attorney Christopher Davis has filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court against Seattle Children’s Hospital and Barbara L. Sheller, DDS for the wrongful death of Michael Patrick Blankenship.  Michael underwent a routine teeth extraction and cleaning procedure at the hospital on March 9, 2009. Upon discharge, Michael was prescribed the narcotic drug Fentanyl.  He was found dead the following morning.  The King County Medical Examiner has determined that Michael died from an accidental drug overdose.

The lawsuit is being brought by the Michael’s mother, Tammy Jarbo-Blankenship, and Michael’s twelve year-old brother. According to the complaint, Seattle Children’s Hospital and its doctors were negligent and reckless by failing to maintain and/or follow appropriate safeguards for the proper and accurate prescription of the powerful pain medication. The complaint also asserts that there were numerous factors present that would have shown any careful medical provider that Michael was not a suitable candidate for the drug, and that he certainly never should have been given the highest dosage available.  
According to the drug manufacturer and medication reference books, a Fentanyl pain patch should only be given to opioid-tolerant patients (i.e., those who may have cancer or chronic pain, and who have been taking narcotic medication over a long period of time).   Michael was not an opioid-tolerant patient.  He had no history of long-term narcotic use, as was clearly stated in his medical chart.  Michael was also prescribed the highest dosage of the drug made by the drug manufacturer.
“We have hired nationally recognized medical experts to examine the facts of this case,” Attorney Chris Davis says.  “All of them state that Michael never should have been given the drug and that the physician who prescribed it, Barbara L. Sheller, DDS, likely had not even bothered to check to see if the drug and dosage was appropriate and safe.  One expert went so far to say that he has never seen a more egregious and indefensible case of malpractice in 26 years of consulting on medical negligence cases.”
The Institute for Medicine has determined that more than 98,000 patients die every year as a result of medical mistakes.  A 2004 study by HealthGrades, a healthcare quality company, concluded that this number is much higher – at least 195,000 people die every year as a result of preventable hospital errors.  As a comparison, about 40,000 people die every year in car accidents according to the Center for Disease Control.
The complaint also states that Michael’s younger brother was present when his older brother was declared dead and then carried out of the home in a body bag. The younger brother and Michael’s mother are seeking unspecified damages for wrongful death, severe grief and emotional distress.

“I cannot even begin to describe the pain and sorrow that I feel for the death of my dear son,” Tammy Jarbo Blankenship says.  “Michael’s needless death has devastated my entire family, and has especially impacted my youngest boy who still refuses to live in our home where Michael was found dead.  And knowing how egregious and preventable the mistake was just makes our grief and suffering that much more unbearable.” 
The lawsuit was filed in King County Superior Court in Seattle, WA on September 21, 2009 (Cause No. 09-2-34248-2 SEA).  The lawsuit names Seattle Children’s Hospital and the physicians who were involved with Michael’s treatment, Barbara L. Scheller, DDS and her assistant Soultana Chatzopoulos, DDS.  

About Attorney Christopher M. Davis
Christopher M. Davis has been a licensed attorney in the state of Washington since 1993 and is the founder of the Davis Law Group.  He is the author of several books about injury law including Little Kids, Big Accidents which focuses solely on the legal remedies for accident and medical malpractice cases involving children. You can learn more about Chris Davis and the Davis Law Group by visiting

Media Contact:
Mischelle Weedman-Davis
Davis Law Group, P.S.