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Family Of Trailblazing Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson Says Medical Neglect Caused Her Death


Anthony Barboza / Contributor / Getty Images

At 89-years-old, Eddie Bernice Johnson, the trailblazing U.S. Congresswoman who represented Dallas up until last year, has died. Her family is alleging that her death is a result of medical neglect after she “contracted an infection at Baylor Scott & White’s rehabilitation facility that led to her death,” the Texas Tribune reports.  

Johnson, who lovingly went by the moniker “EBJ” grew up in a “segregated Waco, Texas.” She went on to serve our country in Congress from 1992 until last January 2023, “championing legislation on water resources, which encompassed flood control and environmental protection, and on education, which prioritized science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” according to The New York Times.

Throughout her career, Johnson broke barriers and made history—“[s]he was the first Black woman elected to any seat in Dallas, she was the first nurse and Black Dallasite to serve in Congress, and she was only the third Texas woman to represent the state in the U.S. House.”

In addition, Johnson chaired the Congressional Black Caucus from 2001-2003, and she was the first Black woman to lead the House Science Committee. At the time of her decision to not run for reelection, “she was the dean of the Texas Congressional delegation and the oldest member of the House of Representatives.”

Johnson’s medical maladies started after a September 7 back surgery. Her orthopedic surgeon Dr. Andrew Park said “[t]he surgery went well,” and she was expected to recover over the next couple of weeks. Dr. Park “referred her to the Baylor Scott & White rehab center, where staff was supposed to take care of her wound and help her regain her strength before going home.”

But her son Kirk Johnson discovered possible signs of mistreatment on September 21, “when his mother called him saying she needed her sheets changed.”

Per local news outlet KWTX, when Johnson arrived at the facility, he “found her lying unattended in her bed in her own feces and urine…There were no nurses at the nursing station when he went to find help.” Johnson reportedly “had been pushing the call button for a prolonged amount of time begging for help. No one had responded.”

“The name Baylor indicates a certain level of professionalism and the nursing staff and management fall far below a standard of medical care, especially in this situation,” said Johnson. “I asked Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation CEO Mr. Smith ‘Is this how you would like your mother treated? Is this customary treatment for anyone’s mother?’

The former Congresswomen subsequently developed an infection, and she died shortly thereafter.

Her family is now seeking justice. On Thursday, family members sent a pre-lawsuit notice “alleging a Baylor hospital’s staff showed medical negligence that led to an infection that they say caused Johnson’s death.”

“Congresswoman Johnson was a longtime friend and champion in the communities we serve—she is an inspiration to all. We are committed to working directly with the Congresswoman’s family members and their counsel,” said Matt Olivolo, a spokesperson for Baylor Scott & White Health.

“Out of respect for patient privacy, we must limit our comments at this time,” continued the statement.

Three days of memorials are currently planned and are set to begin on Monday, January 8 in Dallas, and some will be live-streamed on NBC 5. There will be several services, which will culminate in Austin on January 10 with a graveside service.

Johnson’s family released a statement. “The memorial services of Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson will provide an opportunity for friends, colleagues, and the community to celebrate and honor the extraordinary life and legacy of her remarkable contributions to public service.”

“Memorial services will include tributes, reflections, and remembrances from those who were touched by Congresswoman Johnson’s dedication and leadership. These services aim to capture the essence of her enduring impact on the community and the nation,” the statement continued.


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