Howe had been drinking in Denver with friends. At 2:30 a.m. she was riding in a “rickshaw” in LoDo, stood up, fell backward and tumbled to the sidewalk, hitting her head. The 34-year-old mother of two lost consciousness. A Denver Health Medical Center ambulance was sent to 20th and Wazee streets.
Howe, who had cut the back of her head, was “acutely intoxicated,” according to hospital records, with a breath alcohol level measured at 0.216. The reports show Howe was uncooperative with emergency department personnel and was tied down.
But according to Howe’s complaint, she was not seen by a doctor until 7:50 a.m., more than five hours after she arrived. She was eventually examined by Sooch, but Howe says the doctor did not order X-rays, an MRI or a CT scan of her head, nor was she admitted to the hospital. Sooch treated the cut on her head and in his discharge instructions, prescribed Tylenol, facts verified by medical records. Dr. Sooch, on the hospital discharge sheet, had these instructions for Howe:
“Do not abuse alcohol. Do not get drunk and fall causing harm to your head or body. Apologize to your family, friends and ED (emergency department) faculty for your extremely inappropriate behavior and rudeness while intoxicated. Be a great mother to your kids.”
The instructions were “intentionally cruel and hurtful,” according to Dr. Greg Kane, who was asked by Howe’s lawyer to evaluate her care. “The written discharge instructions . . . served no medical purpose, but were instead cruel and snidely vicious – intended only to humiliate and cause psychological injury.”