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Lawsuit: Nursing Home Tried to Conceal Medication Error

Medication errors in nursing homes are recognized as a common problem, and inspectors for the state will specifically analyze the rate of mistakes when grading a facility on its care.

All nursing homes are required by law to maintain a medication error rate of less than 5 percent, and there must not be any severe medication errors.

Still, problems continue to arise. Sometimes, the doctor fails to write the correct medication or to ensure new medications won’t negatively interact with existing prescriptions. Other times, pharmacies improperly fill the medication. Often, mistakes occur in administration of the drugs, in contradiction to the orders of doctor, pharmacy and drug manufacturer.

Such was reportedly the case for a man who died at a nursing home in California after allegedly being wrongly given morphine, sending him into a catatonic state for which nurses refused to obtain emergency treatment.

According to Courthouse News, which reported on the lawsuit recently filed by the man’s daughters and granddaughter, the patient was relatively young – just 49-years-old.

He had suffered a stroke nearly two years before, and required constant care while he recovered. The nursing home chain that provided his care is a for-profit facility and one of the largest in the nation. This is noteworthy because a disproportionate number of adverse events in nursing homes occur at for-profit facilities, which tend to have a culture that prizes profits over patient welfare.

The family asserts that in the time patient stayed there, he was dropped no less than nine times by staffers. He also lost 30 pounds, indicating he was not receiving the proper nourishment. The facility, they said, was understaffed and nurses and aids often failed to change his diaper or move him regularly enough to prevent bed sores.

All of this lead up to the fateful incident the day before he died. He underwent a daily dialysis procedure. However, the nurse who administered the treatment reportedly made an error and wrongly gave him morphine.

That was at 9 a.m. Patient realized the mistake almost immediately, and attempted to alert the nurse to his plight. However, they did not act with any urgency.

His roommate reportedly witnessed the entire incident unfold. He watched as the condition of his roommate and friend worsened, eventually resulting in him slipping into a state of catatonia.

The roommate allegedly contacted the nursing staff repeatedly, begging for them to intervene. However, no one did.

Finally, after 20 hours, the roommate managed to call for emergency help on his own. However, when emergency responders arrived, the nursing home staff actually sent them away, indicating there was no emergency and no need for ambulatory care.

Two hours later, which was nearly a full 24 hours after the medication was administered, nursing staff decided to call for emergency help on their own. When responders arrived, they found the patient non-responsive. He was also sitting in his own excrement. His roommate would later indicate no one had been in to check his diaper for the entire time since the medication was given.

The nurses assigned to care for him were reportedly working double shifts.

An attorney for plaintiffs told Courthouse News the facility purposely denied patient appropriate emergency medical care in an effort to conceal the medication error in the hopes of avoiding state sanctions. They had hoped, he said, the patient would simply “sleep it off” in time for his next dialysis appointment.

The chain reportedly earned $4.8 billion last year.

Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Shocking Complaint Against Nursing Home, June 9, 2015, by Nick Cahill, Courthouse News

More Blog Entries:

Florida Lawmakers Pass New Law to Help Assisted Living Patients, May 24, 2015, Port St. Lucie Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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