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A trial recently began in the case of a couple suing a hospital that they say failed to stop a physician’s assistant from stealing pain medication. The lawsuit alleges that the theft occurred while the wife was in labor delivering the couple’s baby daughter, and that the physician’s assistant took the painkillers from the wife’s epidural pump.
Attorneys who deal with hospital negligence matters in Pennsylvania and across the country have become concerned about matters of security for medical patients. News stories are proliferating across the country of hospital personnel stealing medication from patients. What is worse, the thieves are not just taking medication from supply cabinets, but more frequently from patients who need the medication immediately, including cases of taking pain relievers from patients going into surgery.
The couple is suing the hospital for failure to provide adequate security and for negligent hiring of the physician’s assistant who later admitted the theft.
The incident took place in the fall of 2006, when the wife was induced into labor. While she was asleep, the physician’s assistant stole a tube of potent painkillers from her epidural pump. He later claimed that he took the medication to treat a sick dog. Hospital staff discovered the absence of the pain medication and replaced it. According to the lawsuit, they then began a frenzy of investigation, questioning the wife about possible suspects in the theft.
The husband claims that hospital staff pressured him to leave the hospital and return later for the birth, and that the theft took place while he was away from his wife’s side. He says that he would not have been away from his wife if not for the pressure from the staff and his desire to avoid an argument with them, but that now his wife has lost trust in his judgment, damaging their marriage.
Although thankfully in this case no serious or fatal physical injury occurred, Pennsylvania hospital negligence attorneys see in this incident a potentially devastating failure of security and a failure in hiring and supervision. The case highlights again that medical malpractice is not limited to the actions or inactions of health care providers in their direct medical treatment of patients, but also in institutions’ actions or inactions in keeping patients safe from harm caused by non-medical dangers found in a medical setting like a hospital.
Source: Stamford Advocate “Stamford Hospital defends claims of negligence” 4/13/2011