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Mother settles medical care suit

A mother who fought to keep her 15-year-old daughter on life support after doctors declared the girl brain dead settled a suit against a hospital and doctors for $600,000, her lawyer said.

The suit was over medical care Teresa Hamilton received before slipping into a coma in January 1994. The diabetic teen became comatose about 12 hours after arriving at the hospital with severe flu symptoms.

She died four months later.

Three doctors who treated Teresa previously agreed to settle the suit for a total of $425,000. The case against Sarasota Memorial Hospital was scheduled to go to trial May 11, on the fourth anniversary of the girl's death.

On Wednesday, hospital attorneys agreed to a $175,000 settlement, according to Ron Gilbert, an Orlando lawyer representing the girl's mother, Sharon Hamilton. State law limits liability of public institutions to $200,000.

Mrs. Hamilton, who lives in Manatee County, said the court case was a long and difficult fight.

"I don't know how I feel now," she said. "It's over, but my life will be without my daughter. I feel totally lost."

Teresa's case drew national attention when doctors said the girl was brain dead and sought to turn off her respirator. When the girl's parents insisted on keeping her alive while hoping for a miracle, the hospital threatened to go to court to seek permission to disconnect life support.

"It was hard enough battling the hospital to keep them from pulling the plug before she was gone. It was a difficult battle bringing it to the public's attention that hospitals and doctors make big mistakes," Mrs. Hamilton said. "I'd rather have gone to court, but I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish."

Sarasota Memorial later agreed to allow Teresa to go home, where she stayed in a hospital bed, on a respirator, with 24-hour care.

The lawsuit was filed in October 1995 against the hospital, emergency room physician Dr. Bruce Kruglick, admitting pediatrician Dr. D. Scott Featherman, and consulting pediatrician Dr. Katherine Keeley.

As part of the settlement, none of the parties admitted liability.