When hospitalized, patients are routinely given a variety of over-the-counter and prescription drugs to control pain and aid in their recovery. In cases where a patient is in pain, nurses typically ask a patient to describe their level of pain on a scale of 1 to 10 and the appropriate medications are administered. Prior to administering any medication, doctors and nurses must first review a patient’s medical record to determine what medications are safe.
The family of a woman, who passed away in 2011, was recently awarded a settlement related to a wrongful death lawsuit filed against a hospital where the woman was treated. The lawsuit stemmed from a medication error that the plaintiffs contend lead to a decline in their loved one’s heath which ultimately resulted in her death.
The woman was transported to the hospital after falling at her home. While en route to the hospital, the woman suffered respiratory failure and was given medication to improve her condition. Having suffered a broken hip and arm, the woman was also given the prescription drug Morphine to control pain. The patient’s medical records indicate she was to be given 4mg of Morphine. However, the woman claimed her pain was not too bad and the nurse therefore only gave her 2mg.
A few hours later, despite the fact that the woman had not complained of pain and was sleeping, a nurse gave her 20mg of Morphine. This high dose, coupled with other prescription drugs that had previously been administered, resulted in the woman suffering a heart attack. Upon her eventual release from the hospital, the woman was forced to move into a nursing home due to her diminished physical health. She died a few months later.
Source: The West Virginia Record, “Settlement reached in lawsuit against Thomas Memorial for woman’s death,” Kyla Asbury, Dec. 19, 2013