Lawsuit: Man's paralysis caused by unlicensed Shiprock doctor's negligence

Steve Garrison The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — An 18-year-old man and his family filed a medical negligence lawsuit last week against a doctor at the Northern Navajo Medical Center.

Lydell Marvin Begay claims in a civil complaint filed July 16 in Aztec District Court that he visited the Shiprock hospital March 6, 2014, complaining of dizziness, headaches, left-side weakness, unsteadiness and blurred vision, symptoms indicative of a serious neurological problem.

However, the doctor who treated Begay, Annicol Marrocco, failed to perform tests or scans that would identify the problem and instead diagnosed the man with pink eye, according to the complaint.

Marrocco sent Begay home with ibuprofen and a prescription for eye drops, according to the complaint, but Begay returned March 13, 2014, complaining of similar symptoms.

A CT scan was performed and showed Begay had suffered severe neurological damage resulting from blood clots in arteries leading to the brain, the complaint states.

Begay was transported by helicopter to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, where he suffered a stroke that left him in a vegetative state.

According to the lawsuit, Begay has a daughter who will be 2 years old in September.

Begay previously filed federal lawsuits on April 28 and June 12, respectively, against the U.S. government and Medicus Healthcare Solutions, a government contractor that provides temporary physicians and transition staffing for Indian Health Services, which oversees and manages the Northern Navajo Medical Center.

Indian Health Services spokeswoman Jennifer Notah requested Friday that The Daily Times send questions regarding the lawsuit in an email. Notah did not respond to the email by Friday evening.

Annicol Marrocco is the only defendant named in the lawsuit filed by Begay in district court. She has not filed a response to the lawsuit and could not be reached for comment.

According to the lawsuit, Marrocco has an "alarming history" as a practicing physician and does not have a medical license in the state of New Mexico. Annicol Marrocco is indeed not listed as a licensed physician on the New Mexico Medical Board's website.

Begay further claims in the lawsuit that Marrocco has been censured, disciplined and fined by the medical boards of Florida, Pennsylvania and New York, and was barred by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration from prescribing controlled substances in November 2013.

The DEA alleged in a May 13, 2013, order that Marrocco issued approximately 21 prescriptions for oxycodone, a schedule II controlled substance, between January 2008 and August 2009 to an individual she knew had no medical need for the medication. She also failed to both date and include the individual's address on the prescriptions, another violation of federal law, according to ruling.

Marrocco further violated federal law on at least 49 occasions while employed at the Northern Navajo Medical Center by failing to seek federal licensure to prescribe narcotics in the state of New Mexico, the DEA alleged.

A federal administrative law judge conducted hearings in August 2013 and September 2013 on the issue and ruled in favor of the DEA, stating that Marrocco's misconduct was "egregious" and not an aberration.

The decision barring Marrocco from prescribing controlled substances was appealed to the U.S. Department of Justice, which upheld the judge's decision in a ruling published on May 15.

Begay is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for medical negligence, the lawsuit states. His mother and father, Lorene and Martin Begay, are seeking damages for the loss of their son's companionship.

Begay and his family are being represented by Margaret Branch of the Branch Law Firm, according to court records. Branch did not respond Friday to a request for comment.

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.