man died after receiving execution drug instead of antacid

Medicine has many amazing features. It has the ability to save patients in Pittsburgh and throughout the world from illnesses that would otherwise be fatal. It offers pain relief during difficult times, and it can help prevent sickness when taken proactively. However, the chemical agents that offer life-saving remedies can also be fatal if they are administered incorrectly.

Unfortunately, one man recently died because of a basic medication error.

Richard went to the hospital complaining that he had a shortness of breath. When the nurse met with Richard, the nurse gave him a drug that is used in executions instead of an antacid to treat an upset stomach.

When Richard’s son arrived at the hospital, the doctor greeted him with heart-stopping news, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but the nurse gave your dad the wrong medication, and it sent him into respiratory arrest.”

According to the doctor, when the nurse was picking up the medication for Richard, he picked up the wrong package. Then, when he administered the drug, he failed to verify that the patient’s name on the medicine and the medication in the package matched Richard’s name and the medication he was supposed to receive.

Although Richard was resuscitated after the respiratory arrest, he died a month later from complications of the medication error.

Richard’s family is suing the hospital, but even a successful lawsuit will not remove the pain the family is experiencing. As the family was preparing the lawsuit, they learned the negligent nurse was still working in the ICU with other vulnerable patients.

A statement from the hospital claimed that there were “several new processes in place to ensure a situation like this doesn’t happen again.” But that is not enough. The hospital should have already had procedures in place to avoid fatal prescription errors.

What will it take to ensure that doctors and nurses are taking extreme caution to be certain that they are giving patients the correct medications? Will the fatal mistake at this hospital be enough for health care centers throughout the country to amend procedures, or will more innocent patients be killed before further action is taken?

Source: 7 News wsnv, “Family sues after loved ones dies from medication,” Nov. 16, 2011

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