Daughter sues for negligence in death at Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock

Steve Garrison
The Daily Times

SHIPROCK — A Gallup woman filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday alleging the Northern Navajo Medical Center provided negligent care to her mother, causing the Shiprock woman's death.

Bernadette Tsosie, administrator for the estate of Irene Bekis-Begay, is seeking unspecified compensation from the U.S. government for injuries and damages suffered by her mother.

A spokesman for Indian Health Services, the administrative agency for the hospital, said in an email he could not comment on pending legal matters involving the hospital.

According to the civil complaint, Irene Bekis-Begay, a member of the Navajo Nation, sought treatment at the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock in January 2012 for cholelithiasis, commonly known as gallstones.

Hospital staff evaluated Bekis-Begay and recommended she undergo surgery to remove her gallbladder. The surgery was performed on Feb. 27, 2012, and Bekis-Begay began suffering major organ damage immediately after.

The lawsuit alleges hospital staff ignored Bekis-Begay's complaints of abdominal pain and abdominal distension.

"...the doctors and nurses at NNMC labeled Ms. Begay as 'needy and uncooperative' and told her that if she would only take deep breaths she would be fine," the lawsuit states.

Bekis-Begay's condition worsened, and by March 10 she was suffering from whole-body swelling, purplish discoloration in her toes and blistering, the lawsuit alleges. She was finally transferred to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque on March 18, 2012, and declared brain dead on April 7, 2012.

The cause of death was determined to be sepsis, septic shock and multiple organ system failure.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.