Lawsuit settled in case of 90-year-old woman who died after nursing home roommate shut off her oxygen

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St. Teresa Rehabilitation Center on Bridge Street in Manchester. Photo/Carol Robidoux

MANCHESTER, NH – A lawsuit filed by the daughter of a 90-year-old woman, who died in February of 2019, after her roommate at St. Teresa Rehabilitation and Nursing Center turned off her oxygen, was settled Tuesday in Hillsborough County Superior Court Northern District.

Attorney James Normand, who represented Jill Flanders of Weare as executor of the estate of her mother Pauline M. MacGregor, 90, and Attorney Simon Brown, who represented the defendants including the nursing home, New Hampshire Catholic Charities NH Nonprofit Corp. and Kelia Inc. d/b/a Northeast Med Staff in Chelmsford, Mass., both said the lawsuit was settled to the satisfaction of all.  Normand said the defendants were reasonable in coming to an “amicable resolution.”

According to the lawsuit filed by Flanders, MacGregor was admitted to Saint Teresa on Feb. 14, 2019, for rehabilitative care, not as a resident.  She required a high-flow oxygen concentrator for her survival but otherwise was stable, of sound mind and in good spirits.

She was placed in a room with Laurette Gagnon, a long-term care resident.  

St. Teresa, according to the lawsuit, knew Gagnon, a native French speaker, had severe dementia, suffered from dementia and “was not her own person.”

The first night MacGregor was there, Gagnon turned off the oxygen concentrator because it was “too loud,” causing MacGregor’s death.  The medical examiner’s autopsy report noted she died as a result of acute chronic respiratory failure due to severe oxygen-dependent pulmonary emphysema shortly after her supplement oxygen was turned off by her nursing home roommate.  The New Hampshire Chief Medical Examiner determined that the manner of death was homicide.

The NH Attorney General investigated the homicide and determined Gagnon was not competent.  No news release was issued in the case.

The lawsuit said at the time of MacGregor’s death, St. Theresa’s staff were unaware her oxygen concentrator had been turned off and only learned of her passing later, at a time when her body was already cold to the touch.

At the time of her death, Kelia Inc. provided essential medical professional personnel.  On the overnight shift the day of MacGregor’s death, the only Licensed Practical Nurse on duty was absent from the facility for about 30 minutes at or around the time MacGregor died, according to the lawsuit.

The defendants in the case denied all allegations.

Norman said MacGregor was a “lovely lady” who lived with her daughter in Weare.

According to her obituary, she graduated from Medford, Mass. High School in 1944.

Normand said MacGregor was a great fan of Amelia Earhart, who lived in Medford for a time, and inspired the young women living there.

After high school, she worked many jobs to pay for flying lessons and to purchase an airplane with a group of woman aviators.   

MacGregor earned her pilot’s license at age 17.

For most of her life, she lived in Derry, having moved there in 1947.

She worked as a legal secretary for Judge Herbert Grinnell before joining the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War as a radio operator at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi. After returning to Derry, she worked as an office manager for Public Service of NH at their Derry office.

When she married Richard MacGregor, she became a stay-at-home mother.  According to her obituary, she lived many summers off-the-grid with her husband and children at their camp in the White Mountains during their formative years.

In later years, she and her husband wintered at Senate Manor in Port Richey, Fla.    

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Pat Grossmith

Pat Grossmith is a freelance reporter.