The late former congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson died due to medical negligence that left her immobile and lying in a bed covered in her own feces for at least an hour, her family alleged during a news conference Thursday.
Family members have indicated they plan to file a lawsuit against the Dallas medical center where he died earlier this week, the Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation, unless a settlement can be reached in the coming weeks.
Johnson broke barriers growing up in Dallas, becoming the first black nurse at the city’s Veterans Administration Hospital in 1956 and later becoming the first black state senator to represent the city.
She later served as regional director of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare under President Jimmy Carter.
Johnson had served 15 terms in Congress since taking office in 1992, becoming chair of the Congressional Black Caucus in 2001. She retired early last year.
“If he had gotten the right care, he would be here today,” Johnson’s son, Kirk, told reporters Thursday. “She had no reason not to be here.”
Her family described the alleged incident in which the famous politician was left sitting in her own excrement after back surgery, causing an infection that culminated in her “terrible and painful death” on December 31, the newspaper reported. Texas Grandstand reported.
Kirk Johnson said he last spoke to his mother during a heartbreaking conversation on Christmas Day, saying she knew she was approaching death.
“She thought she would live three weeks,” he said. “But she didn’t do it.”
A spokesperson for the center praised Johnson as an “inspiration” in a statement to the Texas Tribune, but said the company could not comment on the allegations due to patient privacy laws.
“Congresswoman Johnson was a long-time friend and advocate in the communities we serve; she is an inspiration to everyone. “We are committed to working directly with the congresswoman’s family members and her attorneys,” Matt Olivolo, a spokesperson for Baylor Scott & White Health, told the publication. “Out of respect for patient privacy, we must limit our comments.”
Johnson divorced her husband Lacey Kirk Johnson in 1970 and is survived by her son and three grandchildren.