A settlement has been reached in a medical malpractice case involving the 2009 death of a physician undergoing a controversial treatment for a rare disease.

Kevin Parsons, MD, practiced geriatric and internal medicine until he was diagnosed with Lambert Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome (LEMS), a debilitating autoimmune disorder that affects only 300 people worldwide.

Parsons spent close to 20 years immersed in LEMS research, writing newsletters on the topic and advising others who had the disease. After extensive investigation, Parsons concluded that a stem cell transplant might provide a cure and travelled to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago to undergo the procedure. 

In an incident unrelated to the transplant, Parsons was mistakenly given insulin by a nurse who neglected to read a doctor’s note that specifically stated no insulin be administered, according to the Parsons’ family attorney. He subsequently lapsed into a diabetic coma and died three weeks later. His widow and family sued the hospital, alleging malpractice.

While the case did not go to trial, it did get to the deposition stage. According to the plaintiff’s attorney, a hospital nurse testified that she had complained to the hospital administration numerous times about the fact that nurses on the floor where Parsons was located had too many patients and were overworked.

The hospital allegedly rebuffed the nurse’s concerns, but the case was settled for $5 million in early October 2011.