She was 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 as precocious as any 16-month-old child.
The family hoped a series of operations could strengthen their daughter's facial structure. The first of those surgeries was to address her cleft pallet in 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 and 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 medical negligence that led to Delany's death. An oxygen monitor kept alarming during the surgery, but it was turned off by a nurse who concluded that it was malfunctioning, rather than alerting the staff to her precarious condition. Chest X-rays showing the misplaced breathing tube were unchecked until hours later because the radiology department claimed they were too busy.
Hoping to secure Justice, the family instead ran into California’s outdated 1975 law that capped Delany's life as well as the pain and suffering of her parents at $250,000.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,”