Court rules in favor of family in medication error lawsuit

Illinois doctors and other medical professionals throughout the entire U.S. must properly monitor patients to avoid medication errors such as overdoses or severe reactions caused by the interaction of several types of drugs administered at once. Failing to monitor a patient who has been given strong painkillers or other medications could result in causing a patient to suffer serious health complications or death if errors are not detected and corrected in time.

In a case recently decided by the court, a hospital had administered 6mg of morphine, then 10 minutes later, another 4mg of morphine after a patient’s gallbladder surgery in December 2006. Twelve minutes after the second dose of morphine, she was given 1 mg of Dilaudid. Twenty-three minutes after that, she was given another 1mg of Dilaudid.

About 40 minutes after the last dose of pain medication, the woman was moved from post-op to the same-day surgery unit. When she was moved, she was supposedly taken off the monitoring equipment, even after she had just been given several doses of two different types of medications. Later, a nurse found that the woman was unresponsive. Hospital staff determined that she suffered cardiac arrest and went into a coma.

Hospital officials told the family that they should remove her from life support since the woman had no brain function. However, the family remained hopeful and the woman came out of the coma 46 days later.

Thirty days after her move to another hospital, she was released, but because of a neurological injury from lack of oxygen, she is now permanently disabled. The woman, who has a husband and two children, will need 24-hour care for the rest of her life as a result of the injuries she sustained while not being monitored properly by hospital staff after she was given morphine and Dilaudid.

The family filed a lawsuit against the hospital. The lawsuit alleged that the hospital was negligent in monitoring, diagnosing and treating the woman after giving her such high doses of painkillers. The lawsuit also alleged that because she was not monitored, she went into respiratory distress, which then resulted in the coma.

The lawsuit asked for damages for pain and suffering in addition to other expenses. The woman’s daughter, who is a minor, also was awarded pain and suffering and loss of parental consortium. The jury awarded $500,000 to the minor daughter and more than $7 million to the family in the hospital negligence case.

Source: Outpatient Surgery, “Tragic Error: Remove Monitoring Equipment From Patient Given High Doses of Pain Meds,” Mark McGraw, Jan. 31, 2012

Medication Errors


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