SEATTLE (Diya TV) — The family of 16-year-old Sahana Ramesh is suing Seattle Children’s Hospital, claiming racial discrimination and negligence caused her death. Sahana, the daughter of Indian immigrants, died in February 2021 from myocarditis, a heart muscle inflammation, after months of suffering from Drug Reaction with Eosinophilia and Systemic Symptoms (DRESS).

Sahana’s family alleges that racial bias played a crucial role in her treatment. They argue she would have received necessary tests and hospital admission if she had not been of South Asian descent. Judge Elizabeth Berns recently denied the hospital’s request to dismiss the racial discrimination claim, acknowledging that the family has plausibly alleged harm resulting from unlawful discrimination.

Seattle Children’s Hospital refrained from commenting on the specifics of the case due to pending litigation. However, a spokesperson stated, “Our hearts go out to any family mourning the loss of a child, and we take our responsibility to provide equitable, high-quality care seriously.”

In August 2020, after experiencing recurring seizures, a Seattle Children’s neurologist prescribed Sahana lamotrigine. By mid-November, she developed a painful rash, swelling, and other severe symptoms. Doctors diagnosed her with DRESS, a rare and severe allergic reaction to medication, but she was discharged without further testing or hospital admission. Despite worsening symptoms, including fever and an elevated heart rate, doctors repeatedly declined to admit her to the hospital.

Steve Berman, the family’s attorney, emphasized the family’s frustration, stating, “They watched her symptoms worsen and kept being sent home.” Blood work and lab tests indicated increasing problems with her liver and other organs, yet doctors assured the family she could be treated at home. The lawsuit claims doctors failed to inform them about the potential life-threatening complications of DRESS, and no cardiac-specific tests were performed.

The family made over 50 calls and emails to the hospital seeking help, often receiving little to no response. On February 12, 2021, Sahana collapsed and died at home. “They were treated differently than white people would’ve been,” Berman said, noting the family’s belief they were discriminated against.

The Ramesh family filed their lawsuit in October 2022, initially alleging negligence. They later amended it to include racial discrimination after discovering a pattern of similar allegations at the hospital. In November 2020, Dr. Benjamin Danielson, the former medical director of the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, resigned, citing institutional racism. He later sued the hospital for racial discrimination and retaliation.

Seattle Children’s Hospital has taken steps to address systemic racism. In 2021, they announced a Health Equity and Anti-Racism Action Plan. However, the Ramesh family’s lawsuit highlights ongoing concerns about racial disparities in patient treatment. Dr. Emily Hartford, one of Sahana’s physicians, published a paper in June 2022 detailing racial disparities in migraine treatment at the hospital.

The court had previously granted a protective order allowing Seattle Children’s not to disclose records detailing the racial demographics of other children treated for DRESS. With Judge Berns’ recent order allowing the discrimination claim to proceed, the Ramesh family’s legal team plans to request the release of those records again.

Sahana’s parents believe the hospital’s refusal to disclose these records suggests inequitable treatment of patients. They hope their lawsuit will bring answers and prevent similar tragedies. “Our daughter could have been alive if they had treated her with professional integrity,” said Nalini Ramesh. The family seeks unspecified damages in their lawsuit, aiming to highlight the impacts of implicit bias and systemic racism in healthcare.