Utah State Investigates De@th of Adolescent Boarder Who Vomited for Several Days Before to an Infection

A recently released autopsy reveals that an infection that is typically treated with drugs caused the de@th of a Native American teenager who collapsed at her boarding school in Utah.

After an inquiry, the state determined that the boarding school for problematic youths was at fault for Taylor Goodridge’s de@th on December 20 because they did not take her seriously enough when she vomited for several days.

The Utah Medical Examiner’s office concluded last month that Taylor died from peritonitis, an infection of the tissue within the belly, which ultimately progressed into sepsis, a potentially fatal illness brought on by the body’s response to infection.

The autopsy revealed that the illness had reached her central nervous system and ultimately caused her de@th. The seriousness of peritonitis necessitates prompt treatment with antibiotics and, in extreme cases, surgery.

Teen vomited on multiple days before Infection
Teen vomited on multiple days before Infection

According to former Diamond Ranch Academy employees, Taylor complained of exhaustion, nausea, vomiting, and a swollen stomach in the weeks preceding her de@th, all of which are symptoms of peritonitis.

Taylor had been exhibiting symptoms of her disease since at least October, and they had worsened in the days leading up to her de@th, as was determined by an investigation report obtained through an open records request from the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, which was followed by the autopsy report.

However, the investigation stated that Diamond Ranch Academy did not attempt to transport her to a hospital until the day she passed away. “In the 12-day period prior to the client’s de@th, program documentation recorded that the client vomited at least 14 times,” the department’s investigation report stated.

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“Nine days prior to the client’s de@th, documentation recorded the client vomited at least 7 times in an 11-hour time frame.” Taylor’s parents, Dean Goodridge and AmberLynn Wigtion, were upset by the news coverage. “We are devastated to learn that Taylor’s de@th was entirely preventable had Diamond Ranch Academy cared,” Goodridge and Wigtion said in a statement.

School attorney Bill Frazier declined to comment on the autopsy since he and the school had not seen it. The school was unable to provide more information beyond his initial statement that Taylor’s de@th was a “tragic circumstance” due to restrictions imposed by federal and state regulations protecting student and patient confidentiality.

Frazier continued by saying that the university did not agree with “many aspects” of the former employees’ stories. After Taylor’s passing, the Utah Department of Health and Human Services put Diamond Ranch Academy on probation and halted enrollment. However, the state eased the enrollment limitations in March, before to the completion of the autopsy.

After numerous unannounced site visits between December and February and a subsequent appeal by the school, the agency said it reached its judgment. “DHHS inspections showed DRA had made the changes needed to become compliant and showed no evidence to prevent the facility from taking on new clients,” the department said in a statement.

Diamond Ranch Academy’s license is still at risk until the end of July if the school continues to violate state regulations, and the school will undergo additional inspections by the agency. In response to an open records request, the department stated that the records from its appeal hearing are confidential.

The state is still deciding whether or not the autopsy “is considered additional information related to” Diamond Ranch Academy’s license, according to a department representative. Taylor’s parents said in their statement that they were “dumbfounded” that the state “has not held Diamond Ranch Academy accountable for Taylor’s de@th, settling with Diamond Ranch Academy without any input from our family.”

Diamond Ranch Academy is committed to upholding the standards established by the Joint Commission, an independent, nonprofit agency that provides accreditation to healthcare organizations around the country.

Beyond stating its standard procedure for dealing with reports of occurrences, which can include a review and loss of accreditation, the Joint Commission did not react to inquiries concerning Diamond Ranch Academy.

Taylor’s parents are suing Diamond Ranch Academy in federal court over her de@th “to make sure this does not happen to other innocent teens and their families,” they said.  A motion to dismiss the case on procedural grounds has been filed by Diamond Ranch Academy. The case is still open and the judge has not made a decision.

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