Boulder hospital sued over death of anorexic woman


The parents of an anorexic woman are suing Boulder Community Hospital and other medical providers, claiming that her death two years ago was caused by bungled treatment.

The lawsuit, filed in Denver District Court on June 8 by Joan and William Riederer, deals with the death of their 28-year-old daughter, Erin Riederer, on June 10, 2010.

In addition to Boulder Community Hospital, the defendants are the Denver Health Medical Center and two Denver doctors who specialize in eating disorders, Philip Mehler and Barbara Cleary.

According to the suit, Erin Riederer suffered from anorexia nervosa and had received both inpatient and outpatient care at Denver Health. In April 2010 she was receiving a substantial amount of her nutrition through a tube known as a peripherally inserted central catheter line, but was admitted to Denver Health to have it removed due to an infection, the lawsuit says. Her liver function was normal at that time, according to the suit, and Riederer was discharged by Cleary with a plan for only oral intake of nutrition.

At the time, she weighed 70.2 pounds, and according to a plan set by a registered dietitian under Mehler’s supervision, she was to be reassessed for in-patient treatment if her weight dropped by more than 5 pounds, the suit says.

In May 2010, Riederer’s health providers discovered that she had been putting batteries in her pockets to increase her weight during check-ups for several months, but they did not tell her parents, according to the lawsuit. She weighed in at 61.2 pounds at that time, her parents claim, and medical personnel failed to reassess her for inpatient treatment, instead opting for weekly “vigilant monitoring” and using a feeding tube at night. However, the plaintiffs say the supplies for such feedings were not delivered in a timely manner, and that when Riederer canceled a June 1 doctor’s appointment, it was rescheduled for late June of that year.

While she did see her dietitian in early June 2010, a follow-up visit was not set until three weeks later, the suit says. According to the Riederers, their daughter contacted her dietitian on June 7 and a doctor on June 8, saying she felt weak, tired, “cruddy” and “like ‘crap.’” She declined an appointment with the doctor, the suit says, but he faxed a lab order to Boulder Community Hospital, and while those lab results showed low sodium levels and liver failure, hospital employees did not send the doctor those lab results until June 10, the day Riederer died.

Her parents are claiming that the defendants failed to properly communicate and coordinate care for their daughter.

Boulder Community Hospital spokesperson Rich Sheehan told Boulder Weekly that hospital officials can’t discuss active litigation. Similarly, calls to Mehler and Cleary were referred to Denver Health spokesperson Julie Lonborg, who declined to comment.

One of the Riederers’ attorneys, Julia Thompson, also turned down a request for an interview.

The lawsuit alleges that all four defendants were guilty of negligence that led to a wrongful death. The Riederers are seeking to recoup economic losses as well as “any non-economic losses and injuries, including damages for grief, loss of companionship, impairment of quality of life, inconvenience, pain and suffering, emotional distress, psychological complications and other non-economic losses, past and future.”