Articles Posted in Medication Dosing Error

pain medication overdose

Health System, Intensive Care Doctor, Pharmacist, and Nurse All Sued for Giving Excessive Doses of Powerful Pain Medicine

An Ohio hospital system has been at the center of intense scrutiny after one of its former intensive care doctors is said to have ordered “significantly excessive and potentially fatal” doses of “comfort” pain medicine for at least 27 near-death patients over the course of several years. One family is suing the health system as well as the doctor, pharmacist, and nurse responsible for allegedly giving an improper dose of fentanyl to their 79-year-old family member even though they had asked that lifesaving measures be stopped. Fentanyl, also known as Actiq, Duragesic or Sublimaze, is an especially potent painkiller used to treat extreme pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), strains of fentanyl can be up to 50 times more powerful than morphine.

Although the hospital, part of the larger Mount Carmel Health System, has since acknowledged the doses in many similar patient cases were larger than needed. A legal team will now investigate as to whether the acts were intentional, and if the lethal drugs were possibly used improperly to accelerate the patients’ deaths.

medical malpractice lawsuit

History of Common Malpractice Errors May Be Unknown to Patients

A recent investigation led by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, USA Today and MedPage Today found that even when surrendering a medical license because of unprofessional conduct such as sexual assault, medical malpractice or prescription abuse, physicians simply leave their bad history in one state and move their practice to another while continuing to make deadly mistakes as risky medical experts. Equally disturbing is that if a physician voluntarily surrenders his license, the public may not ever be able to access or gain knowledge about why the surrender occurred. Although the National Practitioner Data Bank has more than 1.3 million records of “adverse actions” going back to 1990, files can only be accessed by hospitals, insurers, and state medical boards. Individual states can file a complaint, but only if prompted to inquire of a physician offender’s harmful patient history.

Additional investigative findings published in December 2018 from the news organizations included:

The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit group dedicated to hospital safety, has released their biannual Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade report, showing an overall improvement in Illinois hospitals since the spring. According to Leapfrog, the survey measures hospital patient safety by the number of “errors, injuries, accidents, and infections.” Participation by hospitals is optional and this fall, 110 Illinois hospitals agreed to take part. According to the data collected, Leapfrog rated Illinois hospitals as #13 overall, an improvement from #15 this past spring.

In a time where the increasing problem of medical errors is finally being given the platform it deserves, the survey is more relevant now than ever. The Leapfrog Group, citing an often quoted 2016 Johns Hopkins study, notes that medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States. Patient safety and healthcare provider accountability is essential for all hospitals and healthcare organizations. Below is our analysis of the Fall 2018 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade report for participating Illinois hospitals.


Illinois & Metro Chicago Hospital Results

The Center for Justice and Democracy (CJ&D), a consumer rights group out of New York Law School, has shared their list of 22 famous figures who have been harmed and even killed by medical malpractice.

Most of us are familiar with the high profile drug-related tragedies of Michael Jackson (2009) and Prince (2016) and even Judy Garland (1969) and Marilyn Monroe (1962). Some of us are familiar with the details surrounding the death of comedian Joan Rivers in 2014 during an endoscopy at a New York City clinic.  But it was surprising even to us to read the details of medical neglect in cases involving other beloved celebrities. As CJ&D pointed out in their report, no one is exempt from medical negligence or malpractice, not even celebrities with all the money and resources in the world at their fingertips. The report also shared several findings that now have become well known to the public. Among them, that medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in this country.

Each of the 22 cases highlighted in the report has resulted in a settlement or verdict (or is pending) and in many of them, grieving loved ones or the victims themselves have said that it’s not about money, but instead about enforcing a sense of right vs. wrong in the face of injustice.

A recent study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings reveals that 54% of American physicians report feeling burnt out at work. Lead study author, Stanford pediatric physician Daniel S. Tawfik, and his team found that those experiencing burnout were TWO times as likely to have made a major medical error in the last 3 months. Study authors also believe that based on this information, 1/3 of all American physicians are experiencing burnout at any given time.  Researchers describe burnout as “emotional exhaustion or cynicism.”

The study questioned 6,586 physicians in active practice at an American hospital or clinic and asked them to report feelings of burnout, excessive fatigue, recent suicidal thoughts, their thoughts on patient safety on the unit in which they primarily work, as well as those who had made a major medical error. The authors found:

  • 54.3%  of physicians admitted feeling burnt out

The Center for Justice & Democracy, a consumer rights advocacy group out of New York Law School, has compiled a review of medical malpractice incidents and has publicly shared their findings. Entitled “Medical Malpractice: By the Numbers,” the briefing examines recent medical studies and investigations of both inpatient and outpatient groups and facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, and hospice organizations.

The data brings deficiencies in medical care into the spotlight, specifically the care Americans receive within hospitals. Below is a summary of information from the report our medical malpractice attorneys think is particularly informative and worth sharing. All data sources can be found in the CJ&D briefing. We have included the page number of the report that contains the source for each statistic.

HOSPITALS:

When we enter the hospital for treatment we trust that the doctors and other medical professionals will provide us with the best care possible. Unfortunately that is not always the case. A medication mistake proved deadly for one woman. A lawsuit was filed against the doctors and Gottlieb Memorial Hospital alleging that they administered a lethal dose of Fentanyl which caused the woman’s death the next day. The lawsuit was filed by the woman’s estate administrator and seeks damages of more than $50,000.

Medication Mistakes

Medical mistakes, including medication errors, are the third highest cause of death in the United States. This is a chilling fact that is very sobering. Medication mistakes impact hundreds of thousands of people every year and are responsible for about 1,000 deaths every day. The problem seems to be getting worse before it gets better. Medication mistakes include various things such as:
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A lawsuit was filed in Cook County alleging a pharmacist gave a customer incorrect information that caused a severe drug incompatibility. The woman visited a Walgreen pharmacy in Markham looking for sinus medication. According to the lawsuit, she asked the pharmacist which medication could be taken safely along with the anti-epilepsy medication Kepra that she was already prescribed. The pharmacist told her that she could safely take Sudafed with it. However, after taking the over-the-counter medication, the woman lapsed into a coma. She now suffers from memory loss due to the incompatibility of the drugs.

Medication Errors
According to the FDA, medical errors injure more than a million people per year in the U.S. and account for at least one death per day. This includes a variety of medical mistakes, including pharmaceutical errors. Incorrect dosage, incorrect prescriptions, and drug interactions generally account for the most common medication mistakes. Sometimes the doctor prescribes medication without checking to see if there is a potential for negative interaction with other medications the patient is taking. In this instance, the woman specifically asked the pharmacist for a medication that would be safe to take with her prescription. The lawsuit alleges that the pharmacist and drugstore were negligent and were responsible for providing proper medical advice.
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Pharmacy errors are a serious problem in the United States. While some of these errors are caught before serious damage is done, others result in serious personal injury or wrongful death. The most tragic of these cases are those that involve children, whose small bodies are even less likely to be able to cope with receiving an overdose or improper medication. Unfortunately problems in our pharmacy system lead to these errors happening all too often.

Young Boy Nearly Killed by Pharmacy Error
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We rely on doctors, including psychiatrists, to keep us healthy. When one prescribes us a medication we trust them and take it. This is particularly true of vulnerable people like nursing home residents and other individuals who have to rely on health care providers for their day-to-day needs. Sometimes health care providers make errors, so we have a medical malpractice system to help right those wrongs. But in some much rarer cases doctors are much more malicious than that, and they actually intentionally act against their patients’ interests for their own financial benefit. These cases can result in doctors losing their licenses or even facing criminal charges.

Suspended Illinois Psychiatrist Pleads Guilty to Criminal Charges

Way back in 2009 the Chicago Tribune and Pro Publica reported that Dr. Michael Reinstein was over prescribing the psychiatric drug clozapine and that it appeared that he was receiving kickbacks for doing so. Previously, in the early 1990s, Reinstein was actually suspended from the Medicaid program after being accused of failing to keep proper records. His Medicaid bills from 1991 showed that he had cared for 70 patients a day on 44 different days and that on 12 days he had seen over 100 patients. If a doctor were to see 100 patients even in a 16 hour shift he or she would have a little less than ten minutes with each patient and that presumes that the doctor would take no breaks to eat, get a glass of water, or use the restroom.
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