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Mother upset after ruling in wrongful death case against NGHS: Says daughter was thrown away ‘like a piece of trash'
03252021MALPRACTICE
Frances Mitchell

The month of May comes with a series of tragic anniversaries for Shirley Metcalf.

It will be four years without her husband, Lamar, and May 7 marks the sixth anniversary without her daughter, Frances “Suzie” Mitchell, who died after surgery at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. 

Mitchell, a 42-year-old Jackson County woman, went in for surgery May 3, 2016, to remove an ovarian mass and died four days later.

Metcalf described her daughter as a fun-loving woman, beloved by her extended family.

“It was just like she was the center of attention anywhere she went,” she said. “She had that kind of personality. Everybody liked her.”

Metcalf and Mitchell’s two adult children filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Hall County, and a Hall County jury ruled in their favor last March. Northeast Georgia Health System, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Northeast Georgia Physicians Group and Dr. Andrew Green were named as defendants in the case.

The Georgia Court of Appeals vacated the $3 million judgment March 24, ruling that the wrongful death case should have been filed by Mitchell’s estranged husband instead of her mother and adult children.

Metcalf’s granddaughter, Kerrigan Blackwell, who filed the wrongful death lawsuit along with her brother and Metcalf, died May 23, 2021. Metcalf said her granddaughter, 31, went into the hospital on Mother’s Day and died two weeks later after suffering from COVID pneumonia.

Following the appellate court’s ruling, the family’s attorney, Ken Lewis, said he was exploring all options for appealing the ruling. Lewis said Wednesday, March 30, that he was excited about the possibility of retrying the case and hopes that the community comes out to hear the evidence.

Metcalf told The Times Mitchell and her husband had been estranged for many years, saying he did not even attend the funeral.

Metcalf said she was upset by the ruling, recounting the pain that her daughter suffered in the days after the surgery.

Mitchell returned to the hospital via an ambulance after the surgery and was released the following day, according to the appellate court’s summary of the case.

Mitchell died on May 7, 2016.

“An autopsy revealed that a small perforation or hole in her bowel had caused an abdominal infection, resulting in her death,” according to the appellate court. “The medical examiner who conducted the autopsy concluded that the perforation occurred during the surgery performed by Green.”

Metcalf recalled her daughter crying from the pain, and she said she called Green’s office every day.

Mitchell’s mother said she felt like her daughter may have been discriminated against because she was on Medicaid and a former drug user. She said it felt like she was thrown away “like a piece of trash.”

The Times reached out to NGHS to discuss some of Metcalf’s claims about her daughter’s treatment.

NGHS spokesman Sean Couch said they would defer to their statement released last week by attorney M. Scott Bailey:

“We are pleased with the Court of Appeals decision and believe it is a just one,” Bailey wrote in an email. “We also look forward to a new trial and the chance for Dr. Green to be finally vindicated, despite the tragic circumstances.”

Bailey said the hospital will continue to “to reinforce that Dr. Green and NGHS prioritize patient safety.” 

“He is a highly skilled and specialized surgeon who frequently operates on patients who are at increased risk for complications,” Bailey wrote. “Many of them have been denied treatment options by other surgeons. He gives them a fighting chance to beat the odds, while being sure they understand the inherent risks of surgery, and has extended or saved countless lives.

Bailey said Dr. Green “has consistently demonstrated an extremely low complication rate in relation to his national peers, and independent expert reviews of the cases in question found no evidence of negligence or malpractice.”

Metcalf said she was always someone to “put my faith in my doctor.”

“But I don’t trust the doctor now,” Metcalf said. “I’ve got to know things about him. I don’t trust hospitals anymore, because I feel like people don’t care anymore.”