Medical overdose, not wrong-way crash, killed woman in 2021, lawsuit says

Gwendolyn Doner, 19, died following a head-on, wrong-way crash in 2021. Her family contends in a new lawsuit that the injuries she sustained in the crash did not kill her, but a medical overdose by first responders did.

Gwendolyn Doner, 19, died following a head-on, wrong-way crash in 2021. Her family contends in a new lawsuit that the injuries she sustained in the crash did not kill her, but a medical overdose by first responders did. (Family photo)


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MURRAY — The family of a Utah woman who died following a head-on crash on the freeway with a man intentionally driving the wrong way says the injuries she sustained in the crash didn't kill their daughter.

Brett Doner and Heather Myers contend it was actually a mistake by those treating their daughter, 19-year-old Gwendolyn Doner, that caused her to die.

"After surviving a head-on vehicular collision ... Gwen went into respiratory arrest because EMS providers injected her with 500 milligrams of ketamine — over 16 times the maximum indicated dose," Doner's parents allege in a 174-page medical malpractice civil lawsuit filed Monday in 3rd District Court.

On April 19, 2021, Justin Wayne Robertson, 37, entered I-215 at 6200 South going the wrong way shortly after using methamphetamine. At the interchange from I-215 to southbound I-15 in Murray — after already driving the wrong way for approximately 6 miles — he hit a Ford Taurus head-on, according to charging documents.

Doner was pronounced dead at Intermountain Medical Center about a day later. A 31-year-old man also in the Taurus suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries.

Robertson pleaded guilty in August to murder and several other charges. He was sentenced to a combined total of up to 20 years in the Utah State Prison.

But Doner's parents say their daughter did not sustain fatal injuries in the crash.

"This is a straightforward case," the lawsuit says. "At IMC, even after Gwen had extensor posturing in all limbs, providers concealed the overdose, the respiratory arrest, and the anoxic brain injury. Then, after internally confirming and documenting anoxic brain injury as the cause of Gwen's death, IMC providers continued to conceal the injury. To this day, despite fiduciary and ethical duties requiring transparency, no defendant has acknowledged the true cause of Gwen's death —iatrogenic anoxic brain injury."

The lawsuit lists several defendants, including Intermountain Health, Life Flight, the Murray Fire Department, Unified Fire Authority, Utah Highway Patrol, Gold Cross Ambulance and several individual EMS, paramedic and Life Flight workers and doctors at the hospital.

Utah Highway Patrol works at the scene of a wrong-way crash involving three vehicles in on the I-215 eastbound ramp from southbound I-15 in Murray on April 19, 2021.
Utah Highway Patrol works at the scene of a wrong-way crash involving three vehicles in on the I-215 eastbound ramp from southbound I-15 in Murray on April 19, 2021. (Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

According to the lawsuit, there is video evidence of the accidental overdose of ketamine, including from body cameras, a helmet camera and dashboard camera. The videos allegedly show that after Doner is injected with the drug — which can be used as a general anesthetic — she is seen "immediately falling into silence and slipping into respiratory arrest; and then a host of EMS providers fumbling about and slow-walking, unable and unprepared to ventilate Gwen while her brain died from anoxia."

A minute later, the videos allegedly capture emergency responders realizing that a mistake had been made.

In a prepared statement to KSL.com, Intermountain Health spokesman Jess Gomez said, "At this time, due to pending litigation and federal laws that protect sensitive patient health information (HIPAA), we're unable to address details of this situation or respond to specific questions. We can say, however, that we're always committed to providing the safest and highest quality of care possible for all of our patients."

The lawsuit goes into great detail explaining each step that emergency responders and medical crews allegedly did and did not take. At the hospital, the lawsuit contends doctors weren't told of the ketamine overdose.

"Gwen was admitted and remained in an altered mental status throughout her IMC admission. Gwen arrived and remained unconscious, unresponsive and comatose," according to the lawsuit. "Physicians along the way recognized that the ketamine dose was the suspected cause of Gwen's altered mental status."

Despite that, after she died, doctors failed to disclose this information to Doner's parents, the lawsuit states. "Instead, these physicians undertook to misdirect and mislead Brett and Heather, by representing to them that Gwen's death was an accident."

Doner's parents are seeking undisclosed damages to be determined by a jury.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the KSL.com team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.

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