A lawsuit alleges that former Journal columnist Jim Belshaw died as a result of a botched diagnostic test performed in 2020 at a University of New Mexico Health Sciences facility.
The lawsuit, filed in 13th Judicial District Court, alleges that a procedure called a cerebral angiography resulted in an injury to Belshaw’s brain that led to his Oct. 15 death at age 78.
The test involves inserting a flexible tube called a catheter into the blood vessels in the brain to inject a dye that shows up in X-ray images. The procedure is used to diagnose abnormalities such as aneurysms and plaque buildup in blood vessels.
The lawsuit alleges the catheter was lost during the angiography, causing a hemorrhage to Belshaw’s brain.
“Mr. Belshaw walked into the hospital for the procedure in good health and was wheeled out hours after the scheduled end time of the procedure unable to hold his head up, with blindness, deafness, unable to walk, vomiting” and other serious health problems, the suit alleges.
The wrongful death lawsuit, filed Nov. 30 by Belshaw’s wife, Elizabeth Staley, alleges negligence by defendants UNM Health Sciences, UNM Hospital and the UNM Board of Regents, and is seeking unspecified damages.
Chris Ramirez, spokesman for UNM Health, said the organization is “reviewing the allegations made in this complaint and will work through the judicial system for an appropriate resolution.”
“Patient safety is our highest priority,” Ramirez said in a written statement.
After the Dec. 2, 2020, procedure, Belshaw alerted a nurse that he could no longer hear and had lost all sight in his left eye and most of the sight in his right eye, the suit said.
“Mr. Belshaw saw no doctor and no other health care provider and was discharged by the nurse that day being wheeled out to his wife’s waiting car with no explanation provided to him or to her” about the outcome of the procedure or the cause of Belshaw’s injuries, it said.
A neurologist later informed Belshaw by phone “that the catheter was lost during the angiography causing damage to Mr. Belshaw’s brain,” the suit said.
The neurologist “informed Mr. Belshaw that the damage done to his brain by the lost catheter during the angiography was permanent” and that no treatments could reverse the damage, it said.