News (USA)

GOP lawmaker who wants to ban gender-affirming care sued for wrongful death in malpractice case

GOP lawmaker who wants to ban gender-affirming care sued for wrongful death in malpractice case
Indiana Sen. Tyler Johnson (R)Photo: Screenshot/WANE

An Indiana state senator who authored a bill aiming to ban gender-affirming care for trans kids is facing a malpractice suit in the 2018 death of a 20-year-old woman.

State Sen. Tyler Johnson (R), who was elected in 2022, is the author of Indiana’s S.B. 480, which if passed would prohibit doctors in the state from providing gender-affirming care to anyone under 18 years of age. Johnson has been touting his credentials as a physician in his fight to pass the law.

“I have taken two oaths in my professional life—one as a physician and one as a state senator. I take both oaths seriously, those being to do no harm to those in need, and to protect life and liberty,” Johnson wrote in a March 10 editorial in the Indianapolis Business Journal. “With my professional background, I support prohibiting gender transition treatment for children and do so with the utmost respect and concern for those struggling with gender dysphoria.”

But according to multiple news outlets, the freshman state senator is facing a wrongful death lawsuit related to the 2018 death of 20-year-old Esperanza Umana. The lawsuit, filed in May 2022, alleges malpractice.

Johnson works as an emergency room doctor with Professional Emergency Physicians, a group that provides physicians to a number of Indiana hospitals run by Fort Wayne-based Parkview Health. According to court documents, Umana was taken to Parkview Regional Medical Center in January 2018 with a 105-degree fever, trouble breathing, and purple dots on her face.

In court documents, lawyers for Umana’s mother Jennifer Becerra allege that “The Defendants exacerbated Esperanza’s respiratory distress by overloading her lungs with 4 liters of fluid and violated the standard of care by prematurely discharging Esperanza from the emergency department in an unstable condition.”

Umana reportedly died of cardiac arrest 20 minutes after being discharged from the hospital.

Local CBS affiliate WANE reports that a medical review panel ruled unanimously that Johnson had violated the standard of care.

A hearing in the case will take place in April, but lawyers for Johnson and Parkview have filed multiple requests for extensions. In court documents requesting that the court deny any further extensions, an attorney for Becerra wrote that “The defendants have had more than a reasonable amount of time to find an independent expert… Defendants have yet to find a single expert to provide testimony that the Defendants complied with the appropriate standard of care under the circumstances.”

Responding to a reporter’s questions about the lawsuit recently, Johnson said, “You can talk to any physician, medical malpractice happens.”

Becerra called the statement “heartless.”

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