When we are sick we find ourselves in a position where we are completely dependent on medical professionals. When those healthcare providers make errors the results can be catastrophic. Pharmacy errors are particularly problematic because, when the wrong drug or dose is administered the cure becomes the cause of a new host of problems in an already ill person. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened to one cancer patient in Oregon.
Oregon Cancer Patient Given Wrong Drug to Treat Anxiety
Central Oregon’s KTVZ reports that sixty-five year old Loretta Macpherson died as a result of being given the wrong medication. Ms. Macpherson went to the hospital to be treated for anxiety. One month before she went to the hospital she had undergone surgery to remove a cancerous brain tumor. She had been making a speedy recovery, and before her trip to the hospital was expected to recover fully. Then tragedy struck.
ABC News reports that Ms. Macpherson was supposed to be administered fosphenytoin, which is an anti-seizure medication. A doctor correctly entered the prescription and the order for the drug into the hospital’s electronic medical records system. The pharmacy received that order. It used an IV bag that it properly labeled with “fosphenytoin.” The problem is, the pharmacist did not fill the IV bag with fosphentoin. Instead, the pharmacist filled the IV bag with a drug called rocuronium. Rocuronium is a paralyzing agent that is typically used during surgery. A second pharmacy worker reviewed the vials of medication and the IV bag and did not catch this serious error.
Administering Paralytic Instead of Anti-Seizure Medication Kills Patient
Of course, the mislabeled rocuronium was then administered to Ms. Mcpherson. After she received the paralyzing drug a fire alarm went off in the hospital. A different hospital worker locked the door to Ms. Mcpherson’s room in order “to protect her from potential fire hazards.” So Ms. Mcpherson remained alone in her room for approximately twenty minutes. A nurse then went to check on her, and discovered that she had gone into cardiac arrest. In other words, her heart had stopped.
Medical professionals rushed to her aid, but it was too late. Doctors did resuscitate her, but she suffered catastrophic brain damage as a result of her brain being without oxygen due to the cardiac arrest. Doctors placed her on life support but she was removed from it two days later at which point she died. She is survived by two sons.
Hospital Admits Responsibility
While some health care providers refuse to take any responsibility in this sort of case, the health system in this case released a statement accepting at least some responsibility. It said, “While human mistakes were made in this case, we as a health system are responsible for ensuring the safety of our patients…No single caregiver is responsible for Loretta Macpherson’s death. All of us in the St. Charles family feel a sense of responsibility and deep remorse.” It remains to be seen whether Ms. Mcpherson’s family will file a wrongful death suit and what position the hospital will take if a suit is filed.
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