The family of late Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson is now intending to file a medical negligence lawsuit against a Dallas-based healthcare provider and rehabilitation facility claiming that she died after getting an infection while lying in her own feces following back surgery.
Johnson, who was the first registered nurse elected to Congress, passed away at age 89 on December 31 at her Dallas home. Les Weisbrod, her family’s attorney and Johnson’s longtime friend, said at a news conference on Thursday that her death certificate listed the Democrat’s cause of death as osteomyelitis of the lumbar spine.
“If she had gotten proper care at that facility, she would be here today,” Johnson’s son Kirk said when talking about the incident that allegedly unfolded at the Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation.
On September 21, her son found her lying in her own feces and urine at the rehabilitation facility, according to a press release from Weisbrod’s office. Kirk Johnson said at the news conference Thursday that he had gone to the facility after his mother called to tell him she was getting no response from the call button. He said he arrived about 10 minutes later.
“Deplorable,” he said. “She was being unattended to. She was screaming out in pain and for help.”
The press release said that when Kirk Johnson couldn’t find any nurses on the floor, he went to the administration office, and the CEO accompanied him to his mother’s room. When they arrived, staff members were cleaning up the feces.
Weisbrod’s office said that Eddie Bernice Johnson’s orthopedic surgeon wrote in his record that Johnson began having “copious purulent drainage from the low lumbar incision” three days after the alleged incident, the Associated Press reports.
The surgeon reportedly performed a surgical repair on the infected wound before Johnson was moved to a nursing facility on October 18 and then to her home on hospice care in mid-December, the AP added, citing the press release.
The news release also said that laboratory wound culture reports showed organisms directly related to feces, according to the AP.
Weisbrod reportedly has given notice to Baylor Scott & White Health System and Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation that Johnson’s family is preparing to file a medical negligence lawsuit.
Eddie Bernice Johnson was one of the most prominent Democrats from the Dallas area.
She served in the U.S. House for three decades after becoming the first registered nurse elected to Congress and the first Black chief psychiatric nurse at Dallas’ Veterans Affairs hospital.
Johnson went on to become the first Black woman to chair the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and she also led the Congressional Black Caucus. She left office in January 2023 after repeatedly delaying her retirement. Before Congress, she served in the Texas legislature.
President Biden said Johnson was a “dedicated nurse, state legislator, and longtime U.S. congresswoman with immense courage and a commitment to the promise of America.”
Fox News’ Bradford Betz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.