A 79-year-old dialysis patient in Florida experienced shortness of breath after a dialysis session. He was admitted into the intensive care unit of a local hospital for treatment. The next day, he was administered the wrong medication that resulted in his death, according to the allegations in the medical malpractice case filed against the hospital where the alleged medical negligence occurred.
While the man was being treated in the hospital’s intensive care unit, he complained of an upset stomach. His doctor ordered an antacid but the man was given pancuronium instead (Pancuronium is a very powerful muscle relaxant and paralytic that is often used during intubation of patients and is commonly used during surgery. It becomes effective within 90 to 120 seconds after it is administered. Full muscle paralysis is achieved within 2 to 4 minutes and the clinical effects last for a little over one and a half hours. Full recovery after a single dose is about two to three hours in healthy adults. It is the second of the three drugs used during lethal injections of prisoners in the United States.)
Thirty minutes after being given the wrong medication, the Florida man was found unresponsive. His medical providers were able to resuscitate him but not before he sustained irreversible brain damage. He died about one month later.
Hospital personnel are trained to use the utmost care in administering prescribed drugs to patients. Nurses (or other medical providers who administer medications to patients) are trained to verbally confirm with each patient the patient’s name and date of birth and then compare that information with the medication order to insure that the proper patient is receiving the proper medication. The labeling information on the medication (such as the name of the drug and the dosage of the medication stated on the drug packaging) is visually confirmed with the medication order to insure that the proper medication, and the proper dosage of the medication, is being administered as ordered by the doctor.
Many hospitals now use hand-held scanners that read the patient’s hospital chart information (including drug orders contained in bar coded information placed in the patient’s hospital chart) and then read and confirm the patient’s identification information that is typically contained in a bar code placed in a wrist band worn by the patient. The use of scanners and bar codes may help to reduce the incidents of wrong medications being given to the wrong patients in hospitals but human care givers are required to remain highly vigilant in administering medications to hospital patients.
In the Florida man’s case, the medical malpractice claim alleges that an investigative report determined that the nurse “failed to look and read what medication he was taking…failed to scan to determine the right count for the medication, failed to match the patient’s ID with the scanned medication.”
We’re All Just One Pill Away From Death
The Florida man’s alleged negligent hospital care, and similar cases from around the country, should scare the daylights out of everybody. As this and other medical malpractice cases illustrate, a moment’s lapse in attention to detail or careless conduct can turn deadly fast. Drugs, when used in the manner as prescribed and in the dosage as prescribed, can save lives; the same drugs, when used inappropriately or in the wrong dosage, can lead to death or permanent injuries.
If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of the wrong drug or the wrong dosage of a drug, you should consult with a medical malpractice attorney to learn about your legal rights.
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