NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Darius Settles had a lot - a young son, a wife, a promising small business designing custom suits. What he didn’t have was health insurance.
Five days after receiving his COVID-19 diagnosis, Darius Settles was dead. Just last month, he turned 30.
Having just turned 30, Settles is the youngest person to die from COVID-19 in Nashville, dying just five days after being diagnosed.
News4 Investigates has been speaking with Settles family and the emergency room where he received treatment to unravel what happened in his final days.
Roughly a week or so before he died, Settles confided in his father that he was having congestion in his chest. But he did not immediately go to the doctor or the emergency room, despite his father’s urging.
“He did like thousands of others of Tennesseans – they put it off until they just can’t take it anymore,” said David Settles, Darius’ father. “It was one of those decision where do we pay our bills, do we have a place to live, or do we go to the hospital?”
Settles’ family provided paperwork from Settles’ eventual trip to the ER at TriStar Southern Hills emergency room on June 30and July 3. On both occasions, Settles came home afterward.
“They sent him home from the hospital with some medications with an inhaler. As if that was going to be it. I don’t understand it,” David Settles said.
In an email to News4 Investigates, a hospital spokeswoman wrote, “TriStar Southern Hills is deeply saddened by the passing of Mr. Settles, our condolences go out to his family. When treated in our ER on June 30th and July 3rd all appropriate care for his condition was provided. During his visit on July 3rd our caregivers spoke at length with Mr. Settles about the risk and benefits of admission versus outpatient management, but he ultimately chose to go home. Given the patient’s condition had improved from treatment provided in the ER, it was felt that this was reasonable. The patient was provided close follow-up and strict return precautions should his condition worsen.”
Settles family said each time he went to the emergency room alone so none of his relatives were there to hear his conversations with doctors.
All his father knows is that too many people are having to make desperate choices while facing a deadly virus.
“It’s not his fault, it’s not anybody’s fault, except for the system because it’s designed in way on a profit-type system,” David Settles said.
Neither the Metro Public Health Department nor the Tennessee Department of Health are keeping track of how many COVID-19 patients lack health insurance.
It should be noted that federal law requires that emergency rooms cannot deny treatment to someone without health insurance, but that hospital may also bill that patients afterwards.