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St. Luke's denies responsibility in Buhl woman's death

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TWIN FALLS — St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center has denied responsibility in a wrongful death lawsuit and the presiding judge has disqualified himself from the case.

Sherry Thaete’s family is suing St. Luke’s and Dr. Michael Fry for wrongful death, saying the Buhl woman died of a lethal mix of antidepressants administered by the hospital after she was admitted for an infection.

St. Luke’s has filed an answer to the Thaetes’ complaint, denying “each and every allegation” of wrongdoing, the Nov. 19 court document says.

Meanwhile, Fifth District Judge Benjamin J. Cluff on Wednesday disqualified himself from the case, citing Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure 40(c), which allows a judge to decline a case without stating a reason.

Thaete died one year ago from serotonin syndrome as a result of being given a dose of Paxil while she had Nardil in her system, the lawsuit says. The two antidepressants are serotonin-boosting drugs that can cause physical problems — even death — when combined.

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Masked visitors walk near the Emergency Department doors at St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center in Twin Falls in September.

“To the extent a response is deemed required, St. Luke’s denies the allegations and assert that St. Luke’s and all of its employed providers, including Dr. Fry, met the applicable community standard of health care practice at all relevant times,” Boise law firm Quane McColl wrote in St. Luke’s answer to the complaint.

Before her death, the 70-year-old woman was under the care of a Twin Falls psychiatrist who had prescribed phenelzine (generic for Nardil) to treat depression and anxiety.

On Jan. 15, 2021, Thaete’s husband took her to the emergency department after she showed symptoms of having a stroke. She was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and was admitted to the hospital for observation, says the civil complaint, obtained by the Times-News from John Kluksdal of the legal firm Hepworth Holzer.

Keith Thaete said he told nurses at the hospital numerous times that his wife was taking Nardil and showed them the prescription bottle.

The following day, Sherry Thaete was moved into the Intensive Care Unit when she went into distress after being given Paxil and was placed in a medically induced coma. She died Jan. 17.

“I knew it was very dangerous to combine the medications,” Keith Thaete told the Times-News in December.

“The frustrating part for me is I had the (correct) medication right there in my hand.”

Both sides have asked for a jury trial. A court date has yet to be scheduled.

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