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Tuesday, October 24, 2000

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
San Antonio chief medical examiner Vincent DiMaio testified
yesterday as a prosecution expert witness against
caregiver Raquel Bermisa.

Expert says death
caused by bed sores

By Suzanne Tswei

Chiyeko Tanouye may have been 79 years old but she had an "excellent heart" that would have ensured a long life, a Texas pathologist said in the trial of a care-home operator charged with manslaughter in Tanouye's death.

Mug shot Tanouye's heart would not have failed but for the complications she suffered from bed sores, said Vincent DiMaio, chief medical examiner from San Antonio. Her heart showed no signs of disease, and her death could have been prevented if she had received proper care for the sores, he said yesterday.

DiMaio was the last expert to testify on behalf of the state in the prosecution of Raquel Bermisa, who is accused of neglecting her duty to care for Tanouye. The state charges that Bermisa failed to provide care for Tanouye and return her to doctors for treatment of the sores. The defense contends that Tanouye died of cardiac arrest.

Bermisa, a licensed operator of a Pearl City care home, is believed to be the first care-home operator in the nation to face manslaughter prosecution in the death of a patient who died from bed sores.

DiMaio said bed sores can be easily prevented by, among other measures, keeping patients clean and dry. "It's just a matter of nursing care," he said. But Tanouye's sores worsened to large open wounds that became infected and led to her death, he said.

By the time Tanouye arrived at a hospital emergency room, she was brain dead and her major organs were failing, DiMaio said. But defense attorney William Harrison said blood tests did not support the pathologist's findings.

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