Mom dies during childbirth; Family reacts to $100M suit against IU Health

Tana Tyler
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A mother is speaking out about her daughter's death during childbirth and a $100 million lawsuit against Indiana's largest health network.

Donna Mills believes her daughter is among dozens of low-income pregnant women denied proper care at IU Health.

13 Investigates has more from the whistleblower who exposed the alleged problems and now a grieving family trying to make sense of it all.

Almost 10 months old, baby Chase has no idea what he and his mother suffered in a delivery room at IU Health Methodist Hospital. One day, his grandmother will try to explain to him and 8-year-old Alliyah why their mom never came home.

"I'm angry. I'm upset. I'm sad, but I have these babies, so that's what keeps me going," said Mills.

Mills' daughter, Tana Tyler, died during an emergency C-section. The 26-year-old with a high-risk pregnancy was retaining fluid and went to the emergency room, where the decision was made to induce her labor.

During that time, Mills says Tana was allowed to eat under the watch of a certified nurse midwife.

Some doctors say that was a big mistake.

Tana became dizzy and hot. Baby Chase was also in distress.

"They couldn't hear a heartbeat, so that's when they rushed her to emergency surgery," Mills told 13 Investigates.

During the surgery, the staff attempted to put in a breathing tube, not knowing Tana had a malformation that required a plate to be put in her neck. (The plate made it difficult to tilt her head back properly for the insertion of the tube.)

Donna says no one bothered to read her daughter's chart.

"So I guess while they were moving her around, while she was doing the C-section, that's how the artery got cut," explained Mills of the injury that contributed to her daughter's death.

Chase was delivered, but within a short time, "I heard 'code blue.' I knew it was my daughter," Mills added.

Tana was gone.

"For them to have to live with this, they may not understand now, but they will. And Alliyah's 8, she's going to feel some type of way. It's sad," Mills explained with tears streaming down her cheeks.

Mills left with unanswered questions and two children to now care for.

"To be honest, I didn't really know what happened until I talked to an investigator," Mills revealed.

That investigator was working on a federal whistleblower lawsuit with Dr. Judith Robinson. Robinson had allegedly warned top administrators at IU Health and HealthNet about certified nurse midwives caring for high-risk pregnant women and putting mothers and babies in danger.

According to Indiana's Medicaid rules, only physicians are to care for high-risk pregnant women.

Robinson knew the inner-workings of the maternity programs. She served as medical director at both.

"I would take it to the next higher level and the next higher level did not care," said Robinson.

She and the lawsuit allege IU Health "bilked taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of dollars in false or fraudulent claims" by charging Medicaid doctors' rates, even though certified nurse midwives were caring for the low-income, high-risk patients.

"It was very lucrative for them to have this going. This doesn't exist anywhere else in Indiana," Robinson told 13 Investigates.

Robinson was fired in 2013. Tana's death came a year later.

According to the lawsuit, "Despite (Robinson's) warnings, the revenue-driven scheme is still going strong. Dr. Robinson learned in July 2014 of a maternal death that resulted from a certified nurse-midwife's failure to properly ascertain a patient's medical needs."

"It was their negligence that caused me a lifetime of pain and other people and it all could have been prevented," said Mills.

IU Health declined to comment on Tana Tyler's case, citing patient privacy laws.

Her son, Chase, suffers from some neurological damage, it's unclear how severe it will be. He is still being tested.

Donna Mills has created a website to help raise money for the care of her grandchildren.

LACE for Tana website