She had been born with Treacher Collins syndrome, a rare birth defect that left underdeveloped cheekbones, ears and jaw. But to her parents, Delaney Gonzalez was perfect. She was mentally sharp as any 16-month-old child.
The family hoped a series of operations could help mend their little girl. The first of those surgeries was to fix her cleft pallet, a routine procedure. But it went terribly wrong. A breathing tube was improperly placed, pumping oxygen into Delaney’s stomach instead of her lungs. Her heart stopped. She suffered irreversible brain damage.
After a few days on life support, Delaney died in her mother’s arms.
Only later would the family learn the depth of the malpractice. An oxygen monitor kept going off during the surgery, but it was turned off by a nurse who concluded it was broken instead of heeding the alert. Chest X-rays showing the misplaced breathing tube went unseen until hours later because the radiology department claimed to be too busy.
Seeking Justice, the family instead ran into California’s 1975 law that put a price tag on their little girl’s life: $250,000.
“My beautiful 16-month-old daughter who had the whole world ahead of her, who had never gone on a date, who had never gone to school, who had never driven a car, is worth $250,000,” Laments her father. “That’s it. That’s all her life is worth,”