MANKATO — A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against an Immanuel St. Joseph’s Hospital emergency room doctor by the family of a woman who died after being treated there.

Lauren Kassuelke of Mankato has filed the lawsuit as a trustee for her mother, Karen Mae Kassuelke, who died Aug. 20, 2004. The lawsuit is filed against Dr. Christopher Meeker, an emergency medicine specialist at the hospital.

Karen Kassuelke, who was 53, arrived at the emergency room at about 1 p.m. on Aug. 19, 2004, according to the complaint filed in Blue Earth County District Court. Her symptoms included shortness of breath, chest pain with deep breathing and a cough, and she’d had the symptoms for several days.

Ten days earlier, Kassuelke had been released from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester after having a non-cancerous brain tumor removed during a craniotomy. She told Meeker about the surgery while he was treating her at Immanuel St. Joseph’s Hospital’s emergency room, the complaint said.

After having a chest X-ray done, Meeker concluded Kassuelke had symptoms of pneumonia and prescribed an oral antibiotic before discharging her from the emergency room.

The following day, Kassuelke’s breathing became shallow and she lost consciousness. Paramedics were called to her home but couldn’t revive her, the complaint said. An autopsy showed the cause of death was related to a pulmonary embolism.

A pulmonary embolism is a sudden blockage in a lung artery. It is often caused by a blood clot that traveled to the lung from the leg, according to a description provided by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

The lawsuit claims there are other tests Meeker could have done that may have revealed the cause of Kassuelke’s breathing problems. The complaint said that allowing the pulmonary embolism to go undiagnosed and untreated directly resulted in Kassuelke’s death. Lauren Kassuelke is seeking damages in excess of $50,000.

Her attorney, Reid Rischmiller of Minneapolis, did not want to comment on the case.

Mary Eckhardt, a communications manager for Immanuel St. Joseph’s, said the hospital is standing behind Meeker’s diagnosis and treatment.

“We feel very sad; the family has our sympathy,” Eckhardt said. “But we do support Dr. Meeker’s diagnosis and care and do believe he acted appropriately.”

Karen Kassuelke was born in Mountain Lake to Franklin and Myrtle Ratzlaff. Lauren and Karen’s son, Dewey, were living in North Mankato when she died last year. She was employed at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter for 22 years.

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