For a little boy who could neither walk nor talk, 7-year-old Samuel Cutliff, with his head full of blonde curls, had plenty to say.
“When he would giggle, everyone would stop and listen because it just made us so happy,” said Mary Elisabeth Cutliff, Samuel’s mother.
Despite his daily struggle with mitochondrial disease that targeted his central nervous system, Samuel’s smile stole the hearts of many. It’s the same smile in pictures all over the Cutliff home and one that his mother misses every minute of the day.
“It’s silly to complain about little things when you get a smile that you haven’t seen in a while,” she said.
Though the Cutliff’s knew Samuel’s life may be short due to his disease, a medical mistake would cut it shorter. In 2012, he was prescribed morphine. Their home health nurse gave him a dose that was ten times too much.
“It was just too much of a shock to his system to overcome,” said Tim Cutliff, Samuel’s dad.
Samuel died 1 month later. The nurse was given probation, a fine and had to take some remedial courses. The Cutliff’s were left to deal with their grief.
“Losing him doesn’t just end right there,” said Mr. Cutliff.
It is why, nearly 3 years later, the Cutliff’s have chosen to sue both the nurse and her employer. They are clear that this isn’t about money.
“My primary hope is that change is brought about from this and, you know, lives are saved and patients are safer and healthier because of it,” said Mr. Cutliff.
According to the lawsuit, the nurse had a documented history of nursing violations and medical errors resulting in probation, but was still allowed to practice.
“It’s easy for behavior not to change unless there are consequences,” said Cutliff attorney, Jay Wright.
Wright said safeguards should have been in place by her employer to prevent this from happening. This is something they hope this lawsuit will bring about.
“You can sit across the table and promises can be made but really, unless there’s some sort of process in place to affect change, then change doesn’t normally happen,” said Wright.
For the Cutliff’s, it’s a difficult choice to make. It’s one that they know will drag back painful memories and scrutiny, but it’s a fight they are willing to take.
“Samuel’s life was very important and it still is. It will always be,” said Mrs. Cutliff.