Death of Del. Teen Could Lead to New Law - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Death of Del. Teen Could Lead to New Law

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DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - Fourteen-year-old Christina Atkins died two years ago.

Her family said she was in a locked bathroom at Beebe Medical Center in Lewes giving a urine sample, when she had some sort of a medical emergency. What exactly that emergency was remains a mystery. Regardless, she was behind a locked door.  

Court records indicate staff at Beebe could not quickly find a key to get into the bathroom, and by the time they did, it was too late.

Christina never recovered, and died a few days later.

Now, her family wants to prevent something like this from happening again through a bill called Christina's Law. They were in Dover this week for a house committee hearing on the bill. The bill received overwhelming support and now heads to the full house. It is the first step in a legislative process Christina's family hopes will end with a new law.   

Bonnie Atkins, Christina's mother, still finds it hard to talk about that day at Beebe. She said she could hear Christina in trouble behind the bathroom door.

"I started to call her name," she recalled. "I started to pound on the door. I started to scream. I knew she was in trouble."

Bonnie said had she and hospital staff been able to get to Christina sooner, her daughter would still be alive.

"Absolutely," she said. "No doubt. There's no doubt in my mind she'd be alive today."

That is why she wants the new law to be put in place. It would require the Department of Health and Social Services to develop and implement rules for Delaware hospitals regarding quick access to a locked bathroom in an emergency.

Beebe now has red boxes with emergency keys right outside each of its bathrooms. COO Paul Minnick said the hospital is supportive of the bill.

"This bill is something that will continue to promote safety in patient care," he said.

Wayne Smith, with the Delaware Healthcare Association, said the bill is somewhat redundant due to federal regulations.

"I certainly understand the great sympathy behind legislation like this," Smith said. "I expect it to become law. But the public should be assured the necessary requirements are already in place."

Both the bill's sponsor and Bonnie had the same response to that.

"If they have a regulation in place that's supposed to take care of that, it failed," said Rep. Harvey Kenton, R-Milford.

"If there are procedures in place - my daughter is dead - so, they're inadequate," Bonnie said.

So, the Atkins family will continue to work for the bill.

"We have to have a first step," said Chris, Christina's father. "This going into law - Christina's law - would be that first step for us."

"I don't want another family to ever have to go through this kind of loss," said Bonnie, through tears. "That's our goal. That's what's driving us."

Beebe said even if the bill is redundant, that is fine, because the law would be in the interest of patient safety.

The hospital would not speak to Christina's case specifically, due to federal privacy regulations, and a pending lawsuit. The Atkins family said the lawsuit could go to mediation this summer.

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