News & Features

Hospital Ordered to Pay $400K in Do-Not-Resuscitate Lawsuit

A jury found St. Peter's Health in Helena and Dr. Virginia Lee Harrison negligent

HELENA – A Montana hospital has been ordered to pay more than $400,000 in damages to the estate of a man after jurors found the hospital, on two consecutive days, violated the man’s wishes not to be resuscitated.

A jury on Thursday found St. Peter’s Health in Helena and Dr. Virginia Lee Harrison negligent for violating Rodney Knoepfle’s patient rights. Jurors awarded $209,000 in damages for medical costs and $200,000 for mental and physical pain and suffering, the Independent Record report ed.

St. Peter’s spokeswoman Andrea Groom said Friday the hospital does not comment on legal matters.

Knoepfle filed the lawsuit after medical teams performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on him on March 21, 2016, and, despite confirming his do-not-resuscitate order, the next day used ventilation and adrenaline after he became unresponsive with a very low heart rate.

His wishes not to be resuscitated were included in his patient chart, had been expressed verbally to his doctors and he wore a blue wristband indicating he did not wish to be resuscitated or intubated, the complaint states.

After the second resuscitation, Harrison wrote in Knoepfle’s chart that he and his wife “DO NOT WANT INTUBATION or CPR again” but would want treatment up to that point.

Knoepfle had a pacemaker implanted and was released to a nursing home on April 1, 2016.

He died in March 2018 at age 69. His wife, Cheryl O’Donnell, continued the case.