Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2011


On October 8, 2007, Horst and Luisa Ferrero brought their healthy but short, three-year-old son Sebastian to a university hospital for a “routine” test to determine whether he lacked human growth hormone. Two days later, following a tragic string of errors, Sebastian was pronounced brain dead. Approximately two weeks later, the hospital offered a detailed public apology to the parents for Sebastian’s death. Several months after the apology, the parents began working collaboratively with the hospital to improve patient safety at the hospital and to advocate for a new children’s hospital in their community. This paper is a case study of these events, both the tragic events that led to Sebastian’s death and the parties’ responses to that tragedy. More specifically, I use this case to suggest three fundamental lessons related to client service. These are (i) the role of community in healing and legal decision making, (ii) the centrality of caring to the vocation of lawyering, and (iii) the importance of non-monetary interests, in particular meaning making, to many clients.