HomeHealth Care NewsPatient Takes Hospital to Court for Life-Saving COVID-19 Treatment

Patient Takes Hospital to Court for Life-Saving COVID-19 Treatment

An 80-year-old woman who nearly died from COVID-19 is back home after a judge ordered the hospital where she was staying to continue her treatment with the drug, Ivermectin.

Ivermectin is a prescription drug that has been used around the world for decades to treat diseases from parasites. A growing number of physicians believe it can stop or slow down the SARS-CoV2 virus from replicating. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health have restricted its use for COVID-19 treatment.

On December 22, Judy Smentkiewicz, of Cheektowaga, New York, tested positive for COVID-19 and was told to “wait it out” at home with no prescription drugs. On December 29, an ambulance rushed her to the hospital where she was eventually put on a ventilator and given a 20 percent chance of survival.

The “Heroes”

At that point, Smentkiewicz’s family began searching for treatment options that would keep her alive, says her attorney Ralph Lorigo.

“The family is the main hero in this case,” said Lorigo. “Her son came up from Georgia and convinced an ICU (intensive care unit) doctor to give her the ivermectin and the doctor gave her the first dose.  Within 48 hours, she was well enough to be taken off the ventilator and moved onto a COVID floor where she started doing much better.  On the fifth day, she started deteriorating because the COVID floor doctors wouldn’t give her the second dose. She eventually had to be moved to the cardiac floor.”

That is when the family contacted Lorigo who, along with his partner John Minear, worked the next 24 hours to prepare the paperwork seeking a court order to compel the hospital, Millard Fillmore Suburban, to continue treatment.

The case was assigned to State Supreme Court Judge Henry Nowak, who Lorigo says was the second hero.

“The judge was assigned to another case that afternoon but after we filed, I called because this was a life and death matter and Judge Nowak then reached out to me,” said Lorigo. “I explained the facts and more importantly the letter we included from her family physician of 20 years.”

In the letter, the family physician recommended that Smentkiewicz receive an oral dose of 15 mg of ivermectin on Day 1, Day 3, and Day 5 and that he saw no contradiction to the medication.

“The family doctor was the third hero in the situation because his role didn’t stop with the letter,” said Lorigo.

Hospital Still Says No

Judge Nowak ordered the hospital to administer treatment, but the hospital did not back down, stating the judge overstepped his authority.

“I was shocked because we had a court order,” said Lorigo. “This relieved the hospital of liability. My client was willing to sign a release.”

The hospital offered to administer the drug if Smentkiewicz’s doctor would take over her care on the floor. Scirvani said he wasn’t prepared to do that because it had been years since he did hospital rounds.

After hearing more debate from each side, the judge said the hospital must comply with the family physician’s order. The hospital insisted that the doctor personally deliver the prescription, which he did.

“My client got her second-round dose of ivermectin that night,” said Lorigo. “The next day she was doing better. By the second day, she was eating and talking to her family by phone and graduated off the cardiac floor back to the COVID unit.”

Smentkiewi was released from the hospital four days later and is now recovering at a rehabilitation facility, says Lorigo.

“It’s been miraculous how this drug has helped this lady,” said Lorigo.

Ivermectin for COVID-19

To learn more about ivermectin and its record in treating COVID-19, Lorigo reached out to an organization of physicians known as the COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (CCCA) (see related story, page 1). The group supplied him with a 33-page report of 11 studies on ivermectin’s effectiveness in treating COVID-19, which Lorigo used in his court filing.

Lorigo also included the remarks of CCCA member, Pierre Kory, M.D, who testified at a U.S. Senate hearing on early, outpatient COVID-19 treatment, in December.

“He testified so passionately, we sent the video to the court,” said Lorigo.

Lorigo offers his thoughts as to why ivermectin is not more widely used or promoted. “One of the issues is its cost. It costs 10 to 20 dollars. There is no big profit to be made on the utilization of this drug. I hope that is not the reason.” said Lorigo.

Since the case, Lorigo says he has been contacted by families of COVID-19 patients from all over the country. “The case has brought much-needed attention to ivermectin but we are at such a crucial time in our country, and word cannot get out fast enough,” said Lorigo.

For a complete discussion of the case with Lorigo, go to The Heartland Daily Podcast.

The Heart of the Matter

While ivermectin appeared to be beneficial to the patient, the heart of the matter is a difference of opinion among doctors, says Marilyn Singleton, M.D., J.D., a board-certified anesthesiologist and past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.

“What disturbs me about this potentially deadly medical episode is that the physicians did not have the foresight to work out the treatment plan among themselves,” said Singleton. “The patient should always have to option to seek another avenue for treatment as long as it will do no harm. This is especially true when a patient’s life is hanging in the balance.”

Singleton says the public should recall the experience of Robin Warren, a pathologist, and Barry Marshall, a clinical fellow, who went on to receive a Nobel Prize for their work linking stomach ulcers to the Helicobacter pylori bacterium.

“Warren and Barry were mocked by the medical community when they proposed the bacterial cause of stomach ulcers,” Singleton told Health Care News. “More important than their Nobel Prize for their work is that their non-consensus idea of treating ulcers with an antibiotic ultimately relieved suffering and saved many patients’ lives.

“Medicine’s worst nightmare began with hospitals or health care systems controlling physician decision-making,” said Singleton. “Escalating this control to the courts ultimately can erode the patient-physician relationship. We physicians must work together to protect our independent judgment and not open the door to government-mandated or government-rationed treatments.”


AnneMarie Schieber (amschieber@heartland.org) is the managing editor of Health Care News.


AnneMarie Schieber
AnneMarie Schieber
AnneMarie Schieber is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Health Care News, Heartland's monthly newspaper for health care reform.


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