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Pain Medication Error Results in Fatal Overdose of Nursing Home Resident

A new state report blames a nurse and a nursing home for a medication error that proved deadly to a 53-year-old short-term resident. The Star Tribune in Minnesota reports the patient received a dose of powerful pain medication that was 20 times too potent, resulting in his death. 

After receiving the wrong dose of the medication one evening before bed, he probably died shortly thereafter. However, paramedics weren’t called until the following morning, which would seem to indicate that the issue wasn’t discovered until that time. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Although the nurse who delivered the fatal dose of oxycodone was first on the state health department’s list of those responsible, investigators also pointed the finger at the facility, which reportedly did not have a system that would track changes in the way powerful, high-risk medications – including painkillers – would be given to patients. The facility was fined a sum the state hasn’t disclosed, but has been allowed to remain open after adopting new medication protocol. 

The man’s daughter indicated she is extremely angry, especially because her father had so much in his life to continue living for. As a short-term resident, he and his family had every expectation he would be walking out of that facility.

His family has hired a nursing home negligence attorney, who has indicated a lawsuit is likely to be filed soon, with possible defendants including the nurse as well as the for-profit nursing home and its Florida-based parent company.

It’s important to point out that South Florida attorneys handling nursing home abuse or neglect or negligence cases must ascertain early on whether the claim is one based on a theory of general negligence or one that arose from substandard medical care. Medication errors will almost always fall under the umbrella of negligent medical care, in which case the lawsuit will need be filed as a medical malpractice claim. This matters for several reasons, including:

  • Medical malpractice lawsuits in Florida have a two-year statute of limitations in which they need to be filed (as do wrongful death cases), versus general negligence personal injury lawsuits having a four-year statutory window;
  • Medical malpractice lawsuits require a higher standard of proof, including expert witness testimony by someone in the same position as the defendant who alleges defendant breached the applicable standard of professional care for their education/ experience/ employment/ resources.

In this case, the state investigator who interviewed the nurse days after the overdose noted she failed to verify the concentration of the oxycodone does prior to administration because she was “very busy with multiple patients.” This is extremely common in nursing home facilities, particularly those that operate on a for-profit basis. Many of these centers operate on skeletal staffs – especially at night – in order to boost their own bottom line. Ultimately, it’s the patients who suffer. Although the nurse most likely bears significant responsibility here (given the facts as we know them), this simple fact can’t be discounted: There is only so much a single person can do. It is the responsibility of nursing home owners and administrators to ensure staffing levels are adequate to provide for patient’s safety and well-being.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

State probe: ‘Very busy’ New Hope nursing home staffer gave fatal dose 20 times too potent, Jan. 31, 2018, By Paul Walsh, Star Tribune

More Blog Entries:

Survival Action vs. Wrongful Death in Florida Nursing Home Abuse Cases, Dec. 17, 2017, Orlando Nursing Home Negligence Attorney Blog

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