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Dad faults hospital in UF death

Eraste Autin's father says Shands cost son his life, may sue. Hospital says it acted properly.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 19, 2002

GAINESVILLE -- Nearly one year after the death of Florida football player Eraste Autin, his father says he is convinced improper medical care at Shands at the University of Florida, Gainesville, led to his son's death, and the matter could be settled in the courtroom.

"We definitely think the hospital erred in his care," said David Autin, a Lafayette, La., urologist. "The emergency care was lacking for sure. He definitely was not treated properly in the emergency room. The first few hours he was not treated correctly."

Eraste Autin was a heavily recruited fullback from St. Thomas More High School in Lafayette. On July 19, 2001, he collapsed outside Florida Field from heat exhaustion after voluntary freshman workouts.

The 18-year-old was in a coma for six days before he died from complications related to heatstroke.

Toxicology reports showed Autin, who weighed 255 pounds, had no illegal drugs in his system. And though his father requested no autopsy be performed, David Autin says he believes Shands was negligent. As a physician who has worked in a hospital emergency room, Autin said he and "any objective, qualified medical professional" would recognize his son's death was the result of negligence.

David Autin said he was told his son arrived at the hospital with a temperature of 102 degrees and was coherent. He said Eraste asked to go home and became agitated, so hospital personnel sedated him. From there, Autin believes the hospital erred.

"It's possible. ... Very possible," that a lawsuit is forthcoming, David Autin said.

It was 88 degrees, with humidity at 72 percent and a heat index of 102 degrees, when Autin became ill leaving the practice field. Water was available at four workout stations, and he was seen drinking. Four athletic trainers and three strength and conditioning coaches were at the workout.

At 5:26 p.m., six minutes after it was called, an ambulance arrived at Florida Field. Fifteen minutes later, Autin arrived at Shands.

That's when details get fuzzy, with reports from UF officials, the Autins and the hospital varying. David Autin said he has proof mistakes were made that cost his son his life, though he didn't specify.

Shands officials said Thursday that Autin received proper medical care.

"An extensive internal investigation was conducted by University of Florida physicians who were not involved in the care of (Eraste) Autin," said W. Martin Smith, director of the UF Self Insurance Program. "These physicians, from both the departments of emergency medicine and anesthesiology at the UF College of Medicine, reviewed the records of care and concluded that there was no deviation from the accepted "standards of care' in the treatment of Eraste Autin."

Minnesota Vikings lineman Korey Stringer died of complications from heatstroke Aug. 1. Two days later Northwestern senior safety Rashidi Wheeler, an asthmatic, collapsed and died. The families of Stringer and Wheeler have filed multimillion-dollar lawsuits against the programs involved.

David Autin has said several times he would at least like to see Shands officials admit mistakes were made. Now he doesn't believe that will occur, at least not voluntarily.

"I haven't spoken to the hospital since," David Autin said. "But from the very beginning, the representatives from the hospital speaking to us were very defensive and felt that they had done nothing wrong, and it's very obvious to an objective person that they did a lot of things wrong.

"But I haven't forgotten about it," he said. "We haven't forgotten."

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