Family: Post-op gallbladder surgery death was preventable

- Gary Bougie was two months shy of his 36th birthday when he died nearly two years ago. His family suspects he died from a condition called opioid-induced respiratory depression after going to the hospital for gallbladder surgery and they want to warn other families about how to possibly avoid a tragedy like this.

"He was the life of the party. He wanted everyone to be having fun, to be enjoying themselves. That’s who he was,” his father said.

Family members say Bougie was starting a new life with a new wife, a new restaurant and three young kids, so it’s hard for them accept that a routine surgery could end that life so soon.

"My son did not have to die. He went in healthy and passed away under their care. Something happened and we want to know what that was,” he said.

Bougie had just opened his new restaurant when he went to United Hospital for surgery to remove his gallbladder back in April of 2014. He stayed overnight for observation, but his parents say learning the next morning he'd passed away from complications during the night was surreal.

While the medical examiner ruled there was no anatomical cause for Bougie’s death, his family believes the mix of pain meds he was on caused him to fall into such a deep sleep, he stopped breathing. They are suing the hospital. Their attorney says even though nurses checked on Bougie once an hour, they should have used a fingertip sensor that would have alerted them when the level of oxygen in his blood went too low.

Nearly two years later, Bougie's mother keeps a picture of him around her neck, but knowing that what killed their son won't be repeated would help them heal their broken hearts.

"No mom or dad should be sitting here and wondering how that child died, in particular when all indications are it was highly preventable,” he said.

Allina Health, which runs United Hospital, said while their hearts go out to the Bougie family, they stand behind the care provided by their doctors and nurses.

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