Four complaints for manslaughter and one for endangering the life of others, that’s a lot for the same establishment. The hospital of Remiremont (88) is in legal turmoil. And this is perhaps only the beginning.
It is the Spinalian lawyer Nancy Risacher who launched the alert by filing recently three criminal complaints, all against X and all targeting the hospital of Remiremont in the Vosges. Another complaint had already been filed before by one of her colleagues, whose file she has taken over. And a fifth one, currently being drafted, will be filed at the beginning of next week. Four of these complaints are for manslaughter, the last one being for injury and endangerment of life. Serious charges, with cases of unexplained deaths that are eerily similar.
Two deaths from femur fractures
When Martine Souque, aged 67, was hospitalized in Remiremont for a femur fracture in July 2022, none of her daughters expected her to die in the hospital. Especially since their mother’s operation went well and she was to leave for a rehabilitation center. But Martine Souque suddenly died the day she was to be discharged. Her daughters do not understand: what happened?
No clear and coherent explanation was given to them, despite their insistence on understanding. “They came up against a wall, a lack of communication on the part of the hospital teams and sometimes even unpleasant reflections,” notes Me Risacher.
However, the heart of the problem lies elsewhere: the medical follow-up file is completely nebulous, contains “several inconsistencies, lack of data, troubling elements”, so that it is “impossible to reconstruct the history of the patient’s care”. All we know is that she complained of back pain, then shortly afterwards of chest pain, before being found unconscious. But was she treated for these symptoms? That’s a mystery. And was she dead when she was found unconscious? “We can think so, since according to her medical records, she was already hypothermic. But with a blood pressure of 6! How is this possible?”, underlines the lawyer.
While this case was in the news, the son of a woman who died in July 2020 contacted Me Risacher and told him more or less the same story. His 78 year old mother was also hospitalized in Remiremont following a fracture of the femur and she too died suddenly some time after her operation. Her medical file indicates that she was treated by the same surgeon and the same anesthesiologist as Martine Souque… The son of this patient did not get a clear explanation of his mother’s death either, but he remembers that she was not well at all and had phoned him to come and get her…
Two deaths from acute pancreatitis
Another unexplained death: that of a 59-year-old woman, Iréna Rouillon, hospitalized in Remiremont in May 2022 for acute pancreatitis. The patient died suddenly, again without valid explanations and with a medical file full of inconsistencies and mysteries in the management.
As before, the media coverage of this case has brought out another, since Me Risacher was contacted a short time ago by the husband of Claudette Zanin, a 51-year-old woman, who also died in the hospital of Remiremont in December 2018 following an acute pancreatitis, again under very unclear circumstances.
“Each time, these deaths are explained by cardiac arrest or multi-visceral failure, but these are not explanations. What happened to cause these patients to suddenly deteriorate? And were the symptoms really managed and every effort made to prevent these worsenings? In view of the medical follow-up files provided, one can seriously doubt it”, insists the lawyer of the bar of Epinal, for whom “the families of the patients, maintained in a kind of opacity, have the right to know the truth”.
Ten broken ribs went unnoticed
In the last case, fortunately there was no death, but the worst could have happened, hence the complaint for injury and endangerment of life. It concerns a 46 year old man, hospitalized in Remiremont in October 2022 after a fall from a roof. Despite his pain and difficulty breathing, the medical team did not detect anything abnormal in the scan and let him go home with a prescription for Doliprane. About three weeks later, the pain being unbearable, the man finally had an X-ray in a medical imaging center in Essey-lès-Nancy. The result is clear and without appeal: ten broken ribs!
“It is incomprehensible and the consequences could have been very serious if one of the ribs had touched the spleen, the liver or the lungs”, says Mrs. Risacher who, even if she is aware of the lack of means and personnel in the hospitals, considers that one cannot accept such failures.
Judicial investigations underway
Concerning the unexplained deaths, the Épinal Public Prosecutor’s Office has opened a judicial investigation “against X for involuntary manslaughter” and the Public Prosecutor, Frédéric Nahon, has referred the case to investigating judges. The investigations will have to clarify if there were medical errors or not in the different files.
For its part, the management of the Remiremont hospital said it was “sorry about the situation”. Its director, Dominique Cheveau, said that the patients had benefited from a “management according to the rules of art” by an “experienced surgical team”. He concluded: “We only ask to understand what happened”.
However, the case is likely to become more serious. Indeed, several families have contacted Me Risacher in the last few days to report similar cases of suspicious deaths at the hospital (and not only in Remiremont). Even if, after examination, not all of them will lead to the filing of complaints, it is very likely that the list of complainants will increase.
Morts inexpliquées à l'hôpital de Remiremont: l'avocate des plaignants dénonce "un manque de transparence" pic.twitter.com/ajqDFsAxt6
— BFMTV (@BFMTV) December 29, 2022