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Lawsuit: Mother died after OB-GYN did not properly treat heart infection

Updated February 10, 2024 - 8:48 am

A medical malpractice lawsuit accuses a Las Vegas doctor of failing to treat a heart infection in a 30-year-old mother of two, leading to her death less than a month after her daughter was born.

Cassie Medina’s family filed the wrongful death complaint Feb. 2 against local OB-GYN Dr. Steven Harter, an advanced practice registered nurse and Intermountain Health Care Inc.

The suit states that Medina gave birth on Feb. 7, 2023, and alleges that she was later discharged from Centennial Hills Hospital without being treated for an elevated heart rate. She died on March 1 after undergoing a heart valve replacement due to a severe infection, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also states that Harter has settled two other medical malpractice claims within the last ten years that have totaled $3 million. He is also facing an ongoing malpractice lawsuit in Clark County, court records show. The Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners website does not list any discipline or license restrictions that Harter has faced.

“Something’s wrong here where a physician has this history and nothing happens,” said attorney Robert Murdock, who is representing Medina’s family.

An attorney for Harter was not listed in court records as of Friday afternoon. When reached by phone, Harter declined to comment for this article.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Intermountain Health Care declined to comment on ongoing litigation.

“We are aware of this lawsuit and will address these claims in the appropriate legal forum,” the statement said.

The company operates a women’s health clinic next to Centennial Hills Hospital, where Medina gave birth to her daughter.

Murdock said that Medina’s diagnosis is not often noticed by health professionals, but in her case, a routine heart test registered what was a treatable infection.

“You got to treat it, and you treat it with antibiotics,” Murdock said, adding that “she would have been fine” if she was properly taken care of.

A GoFundMe set up by Medina’s sister-in-law described her as the “epitome of kindness and grace,” who “always put others ahead of herself.” Medina’s husband, Joshua Medina, is now left to raise their newborn baby and young daughter, the lawsuit said.

According to the lawsuit, neither Harter nor the nurse ordered any treatment beyond Tylenol for Medina after an electrocardiogram test showed she had an increased heart rate following her daughter’s birth. Medina was discharged without any knowledge of the abnormal test, the lawsuit said.

“Ms. Medina was not advised to follow up with a cardiologist or her internal medicine doctor,” Murdock wrote in the lawsuit. “The only recommended medical follow-up was for Cassie to see her obstetrician, Dr. Harter, within 4-6 weeks.”

In 2014, Harter faced a lawsuit after a woman suffered a uterine rupture while giving birth, which caused her baby brain damage resulting in cerebral palsy.

According to court documents in the lawsuit, an emergency cesarean section was delayed up to 20 minutes after the woman’s uterus ruptured, and the baby had moved into her abdominal cavity by the time the C-section was performed. Harter’s insurance company paid $1 million for a settlement in the case, Murdock wrote in Friday’s lawsuit.

In 2016, Harter reported to the State Board of Medical Examiners that his insurance company paid $2 million in a settlement for a “delay in diagnosing fetal distress leading to the child’s delivery in a compromised condition,” the lawsuit said.

In April 2022, Harter was sued by the family of a baby he delivered at Summerlin Hospital in 2012. According to that complaint, the baby’s mother was not notified of the risks of using forceps or a vacuum extraction to help during birth. Even though the mother would have preferred a quicker C-section, it was not performed until after the forceps and vacuum extraction were used, according to the lawsuit.

The baby has since grown up unable to speak and with cognitive development problems. He suffers from seizures, growth developmental issues and has undergone surgeries to correct his neck and posture, according to the lawsuit, which alleges his health problems are the result of the forceps and vacuum extraction.

The lawyers representing Harter in the April lawsuit did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit filed by Medina and her family alleges that Intermountain Health breached its duty by hiring Harter after he was involved in $3 million worth of settlements. Murdock questioned why the company hired Harter, and said Intermountain Health should have known of his history.

“It’s like hiring a wolf to guard the chicken pen,” he said.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240.

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