Angelo Henderson’s family files wrongful death suit

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac – The family of award-winning journalist and radio host Angelo Henderson filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Wednesday alleging medical negligence allowed a deadly blood clot to travel to his lung.

Henderson, 51, a community activist, minister and former Detroit News reporter, died Feb. 15, 2014, in his Oakland County home about three weeks after surgery for a left knee quadriceps rupture. He was survived by his wife, Felecia, and a son.

The suit, filed in Oakland Circuit Court on behalf of Felecia Henderson, a Detroit News assistant managing editor, alleges the death was preventable.

Her attorney, Brian McKeen, said he has seen “too many of these deaths from pulmonary embolism.”

“This is another example of a care provider failing to take simple steps to prevent blood clots,” said McKeen. “He was too young to die.”

Named as defendants are UnaSource Surgery Center in Troy; Performance Orthopedics, a sports medicine practice in Bingham Farms; and Henderson’s surgeon, Dr. Joseph Guettler.

Neither Performance Orthopedics nor Guettler could be reached for comment Wednesday.

“Our hearts go out to the Henderson family,” said Amie Starkey, executive director at UnaSource Surgery Center. “Patient safety is our top priority at UnaSource Surgery Center. We have robust processes in place to ensure the safety of those we serve. We investigate any incident, or potential incident, thoroughly to ensure that the care we provide is safe and appropriate. We are unable to discuss this case due to the pending litigation.”

McKeen said Henderson died from venous thromboembolism – a blood clot that starts in a vein – that included pulmonary embolism, when the clot breaks free and travels to the lung.

“Mr. Henderson had numerous risk factors for developing blood clots and his surgeon and others failed to treat him appropriately or to instruct him on how to watch out for VTE,” he said.

Henderson, who suffered the knee injury in a fall, had risk factors for VTE, including age, obesity, hypertension, a recent surgery and a lack of mobility, the attorney said.

“He should have been offered VTE prophylaxis,” said McKeen, adding that drugs as well as compression stockings and mechanical devices can reduce the chance of developing a blood clot.

The suit alleges that none were provided or suggested to Henderson.

Guettler was medically negligent by not performing a full medical history on Henderson or disclosing to him all the risks involved in his surgery, including VTE, according to the complaint.

“Persons in his situation have to be aware of sudden swelling, pain or a warming feeling in the legs,” said McKeen. “This should be a teachable moment that such sensations require immediately going to a hospital or emergency room. That’s what should have been done for Mr. Henderson.”

The nursing staffs of both UnaSource Surgery Center and Performance Orthopedics “failed to timely and properly appreciate the serious nature of Mr. Henderson’s risk factors for developing VTE” or to properly give him thromboembolism prophylaxis or educate him to warning signs, according to the lawsuit.

Henderson hosted the popular show “Your Voice With Angelo Henderson” on WCHB-AM (1200). He worked at The News from 1989-95 and again for a couple of years in the early 2000s.

In 1999, Henderson won a Pulitzer Prize for distinguished feature writing while deputy Detroit bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal. He served two terms as president of the Detroit Chapter-National Association of Black Journalists and a was two-time national parliamentarian.

The suit, assigned to Judge Michael Warren, seeks a jury trial and over $25,000 in damages.