Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Parents file wrongful-death claim against Hopkins

Hospital allegedly did not warn of newborn's condition

Medical personnel at Johns Hopkins Hospital released a newborn to her parents four years ago without telling them of a potentially cancerous abnormality discovered in the girl’s adrenal gland, the parents allege in a wrongful-death lawsuit they filed this week against the Baltimore healthcare center.

Francesca and David Webster claim they would have immediately sought treatment for Emma had they been told of the adrenal cyst, the potential cancer it indicated and the need for follow-up examinations.

Instead, Emma went untreated until the painful, organ-destroying cancer revealed itself almost two years later and killed her after an 11-month battle, according to the parent’s complaint in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

The complaint alleges that Johns Hopkins’ internal discharge documents for Emma noted that an abdominal ultrasound revealed the 4mm cyst and recommended follow-up tests. But the parents claim this information was negligently not provided to them when they left the hospital with their 5-day-old twin daughters on Aug. 12, 2016.

Johns Hopkins said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that “our deepest sympathies go out to this family. Out of respect for their privacy and in accordance with our usual practice, we will not discuss details of pending or ongoing litigation.”

Francesca Webster said in a statement issued through the family’s attorneys Tuesday that the lawsuit should serve as an abject example that mothers and fathers must be proactive.

“We want to stress to parents to ask questions about what tests were done and their results,” Emma’s mother stated. “Also to order and review all medical records to make sure you have a full understanding of your child’s care.”

The Websters are represented by the Baltimore law firm Wais Vogelstein Forman & Offutt LLC.

“Johns Hopkins needs to be held accountable for the tragic and preventable death of Emma,” Wais Vogelstein attorney Chris Norman said in the firm’s news release announcing the lawsuit. “The negligence that took place resulted in the unnecessary suffering and death of an innocent little girl, leaving a permanent hole in the heart of her parents and twin sister.”

Emma’s symptoms began with a fever, congestion and a painful stomach ache about a week before her second birthday in the summer of 2018. A local urgent care center gave the youngster a laxative, according to the complaint.

The symptoms worsened over the next few days and a physician’s abdominal imaging study showed enlargement and displacement of Emma’s liver and spleen. She was rushed to Johns Hopkins, where an abdominal ultrasound revealed a tumor that originated in her adrenal gland, the complaint states.

The 4mm cyst discovered at birth, but not told to the parents, had more than tripled in size, displacing Emma’s liver and kidneys, according to the complaint. In addition to Emma’s abdomen, cancer was ultimately found in her lymph nodes, upper chest, neck, skull, pelvis, spine and left leg, the complaint states.

Emma had surgery on Oct. 31, 2018, followed by chemotherapy and another surgery on Dec. 10, 2018. Further, painful chemotherapy was followed by radiotherapy but to no avail, according to the complaint.

Emma died June 3, 2019, at age 2.

In her memory, the Websters have established the Emma Claire Foundation, a nonprofit that provides financial assistance to families of children fighting cancer.

The case is Francesca Webster et al. v. Johns Hopkins Hospital et al.

To purchase a reprint of this article, contact [email protected].