Philadelphia FIGHT accused of medical malpractice

Philadelphia FIGHT is being sued for medical malpractice after allegedly contributing to the death of a Philadelphia youth who died of a pulmonary embolism shortly after undergoing foot surgery.

Amir Bishop, 17, died on Feb. 15, 2019, two weeks after he was operated on to correct a flat foot. According to a 36-page lawsuit filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, Bishop was cleared for foot surgery by Dr. Elaina Tully, who worked for Philadelphia FIGHT at the time.

On Feb. 1, 2019, Dr. Steven Boc performed the surgery on Bishop at Hahnemann Hospital. Two weeks later, Bishop experienced shortness of breath, followed by oxygen hunger and progressive suffocation for almost an hour before going into cardiac arrest. Medics were called and Bishop was transported to Jefferson Frankford Hospital. Resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful and he was deemed “dead on arrival,” according to Bishop’s death certificate.

At the time of his death, Bishop was a senior at St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School in Bensalem, Bucks County.

The lawsuit names as defendants Tully, Boc, Philadelphia FIGHT and the Foot and Ankle Center of Philadelphia. Defense attorneys had no comment for this story. But in court papers, they denied any wrongdoing on behalf of their clients.

“Any and all care and treatment provided by Answering Defendants was in accordance with the standard of care set forth within the medical community,” wrote Kevin H. Wright, an attorney for Philadelphia FIGHT and Tully.

In a defense filing, Wright also noted that Bishop may have caused or contributed to his own injuries.

Wright added that Philadelphia FIGHT and Tully “demand judgment in their favor and against Plaintiff together with attorneys’ fees and costs associated with their defense.”

The lawsuit accuses Tully of failing to recognize that Bishop was at high-risk for a pulmonary embolism; failing to warn Bishop of the risk; failing to treat Bishop with anticoagulants in a timely manner; and failing to refer Bishop to a hematologist.

Tully allegedly was aware that Bishop had a family history of blood clots and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease but did not do any further follow-up, according to the lawsuit.

“As a result of the negligence of Dr. Tully…the risk of harm to Amir [Bishop] was increased and/or Amir was caused to lose a substantial chance of avoiding harm,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit accuses Boc of similar negligence, including that a short-leg cast was placed on Bishop without adequate prophylaxis for deep-vein thrombosis. This alleged treatment contributed to a blood clot in Bishop’s lower extremities that traveled to his lungs, according to the lawsuit.

The case was in the discovery phase for about two years. Depositions were taken of Tully, Boc, relatives of Bishop and others. Now, the parties are waiting for a jury-trial date to be determined.

“The trial has not been scheduled,” said plaintiff’s attorney Emily B. Marks in an email. “Given the backlog of cases because of the pandemic, we are hopeful the Court will issue a trial date in 2023.”

Marks said Bishop suffered an extremely painful death, which was preventable. Marks said she’s optimistic a jury will render a favorable verdict. Any damages awarded would be placed in Bishop’s estate, she said.

“This is a tragic case involving the preventable death of a 17-year-old whose life was needlessly cut short by the failures of his medical providers,” Marks added. “I am optimistic that a jury will agree.”

Marks also said Bishop’s family has been “devastated” by his death. “You do not expect a 17-year-old to die following routine foot surgery to correct ‘flat feet,’ she continued. “Amir’s family is continuing to grieve.”

The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 in damages, according to court papers.

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Tim Cwiek has been writing for PGN since the 1970s. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from West Chester State University. In 2013, he received a Sigma Delta Chi Investigative Reporting Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his reporting on the Nizah Morris case. Cwiek was the first reporter for an LGBT media outlet to win an award from that national organization. He's also received awards from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the National Newspaper Association, the Keystone Press and the Pennsylvania Press Club.