A California court found UCFS liable for the opioid overdose death of a kidney donor patient while he was in the hospital following transplant surgery, concluding “based upon the evidence presented that it is more likely than not that the Regents (of University of California) were negligent in administering Anders Pederson excessive opioids which caused him to suffer respiratory depression, resulting in cardiac arrest and brain death.” The court awarded compensatory damages in the amount of $2 million, which was reduced o $250,000 due to California’s cap on damages in medical malpractice cases (MICRA).
According to reports, the brother donated a kidney to his sister in 2015. His sister’s kidneys were compromised due to a bacterial infection she suffered when she was 15 months old. The transplant surgery appeared to go well and the brother was recuperating in the hospital. He was given Dilaudid for pain, but allegedly was given four times the recommended dose based on his young age and his compromised kidney function, and then not properly monitored with a pulse oximeter to make sure his oxygenation remained at an appropriate level. The hospital medical staff allegedly failed to check his vital signs for five hours (testimony established that vital signs should be checked every four hours). He was found unresponsive in his hospital bed by his mother.
An expert on behalf of the plaintiff, who was the former director of the Department of Pharmacy at UC San Diego, reportedly testified that he found at least 30 failures in the patient’s post-operative care: from the pharmacist to the nursing staff, no one recognized the potency of the Dilaudid dose that was given. The plaintiff argued that the Code Blue team failed to identify the cause of the patient’s cardiac arrest and failed to give him Narcan to reverse the effect of opioids.
UCSF disagreed with the court’s findings and its responsibility for the death, stating after the court’s judgment “the patient’s clinical course was not consistent with excessive opioids as the cause of death,” although UCSF did change its policy after this incident and now monitors transplant patients with continuous pulse oximetry.
The patient’s mother stated after the judgment, “We basically started our lawsuit just to get the records. We just wanted to know what happened, and since they weren’t providing them, we felt we needed to get the records to figure it out. We wanted justice for him. He died in that hospital and we really wanted to know why.”
If you or a family member were injured as a result of medical negligence in California or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a California medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your family member in medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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