Family says son died after medical equipment was taken away

by: Jim Strickland Updated:

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A local hospice and its medical supply vendor are accused in the death of a disabled man who collapsed moments after life-saving equipment was taken from his home.

Friday, his mother filed a $10 million lawsuit.

"They know they did wrong, they know they did wrong," said Sharon Lee.

From birth, Lee had cared for her disabled son, Emmanuel. Emmanuel Lee had Down Syndrome, along with chronic heart and lung problems.

Two years ago a doctor ordered home health care.

Records showed DeKalb County-based Odessey Hospice was the provider and medical supplier Mobility Warehouse of Stockbridge delivered a list of equipment to the Lee home.

"A hospital bed, a table -- he had a porta potty. He had oxygen," Lee said.

Documents showed eight days after delivery, the equipment company showed up to take it back.

"He said, 'I'm sorry for your loss,' and I said, 'My son's not dead,'" said Lee.

Lee said seeing Emmanuel alive and stable was not enough for the medial supply employee.

The lawsuit said moments later, no longer with a bedside commode, Emmanuel struggled to get to the bathroom in the hall. His mother, who'd still been dealing with the equipment vendor, found him.

"He was like gasping for air and he was blue," Lee said.

Records showed an ambulance rushed Emmanuel to Emory Midtown. He died less than two days. A doctor's affidavit blamed "the removal of equipment... resulting in destabilization, decompensation and eventual death."

"My son died in my arms," said Lee.

"The contract was designed to help him, not kill him, and that's what they did," said family attorney George Plumides.

The medical supply company refused to comment. A statement from Odessey said confidentiality laws prohibit them from commenting on a particular patient:

Gentiva’s primary focus is on delivering the best possible care, with the utmost respect, for patients in our care.  But federal healthcare regulations and privacy concerns limit any comments we can make on specific cases. We can confirm that we received a demand letter from an attorney representing a relative of the individual in question, but other information you have is incorrect -- we are not in any negotiations or in settlement talks.