ORANGE PARK, Fla. – The family of a Clay County woman is suing Orange Park Medical Center because they say maggots crawled out of her mouth last year while she was in the intensive care unit.
Dorothy Mooneyham, 75, died later of unrelated complications of lung cancer surgery.
The family’s attorney, Frank Ashton, said he has never heard of maggots being found on a patient in an ICU at any other U.S. hospital in modern times.
“I am not going to tell you that it's a crime, but it was as close to a crime as you can get,” Ashton said. “It's neglect. It's intentional neglect to have something like this occur not once, but three times over the course of several days. This should never ever happen in an intensive care unit at any hospital.”
READ: Lawsuit against OPMC
Orange Park Medical Center released a statement denying the claims:
“We are aware of the outrageous and inaccurate allegations that have been made. While we understand the grief of losing a loved one and we offer our condolences to this family, we are proud of the skilled and compassionate care our team provides every day to our patients, and we will vehemently defend this case in court.”
Medical records that Ashton gave to News 6 partner WJXT-TV show that on Dec. 1, 2015, hospital personnel noted maggots coming from Mooneyham's mouth and suctioned them out during a neurological assessment.
“One morning they found maggots in her mouth and in her nose,” Mooneyham's son, Fred Mooneyham, said. “They were going in to check on her, to check where she was intubated, and in the intubation spot they found maggots crawling around her mouth and her nasal airway as well.”
The maggots were removed, but the family said it found more maggots later that day.
A third incident was also recorded in the medical report in which a wiggling worm was found implanted in the skin of Dorothy Mooneyham's thigh. It was removed.
“Three days later they found one on her inner thigh that was feeding on her thigh,” Fred Mooneyham said.
The family also showed News4Jax video evidence showing the worm after the family said it was taken off Dorothy Mooneyham's leg.
After the third incident, the hospital moved her to a different room.
“What we know from the medical records is that these maggots were coming out of her mouth and they were found on her on multiple occasions,” Ashton said.
Dorothy Mooneyham was initially taken to the ICU after she had a heart attack after lung cancer surgery. She died later that month in a hospice facility.
“You hope to go a certain way, but you never want it to be in a way that is horrifying,” Fred Mooneyham said. “It's the kind of thing that's your worst nightmare, that you couldn't imagine happening to your mom when she is passing. There's something to be said for death with dignity and that didn't happen, and it didn't happen because the care wasn't there.”
The family is suing for elder abuse and neglect, medical malpractice and emotional distress.
News4Jax asked OPMC what parts of the allegations were “inaccurate,” but we were told that the hospital could not comment further because of potential HIPAA violations.
It is not unusual for corporate defendants not to comment on lawsuits that have been filed, but if the case gets to trial all of the facts will be laid out.