Overdose of Morphine Leads to Death

Article posted on:09/18/2008

An Arizona jury recently awared the family of an 81 year old $6 million dollars following her death from morphine toxicity. The victim, a dialysis patient, was originally treated for sciatica at a hospital and was receiving 30 milligrams of morphine a day. When she was transferred to a nursing home, her dosage was doubled to 60 milligrams a day. Unfortunately, at the time of transfer a nurse negligently wrote an order for the victim to receive 90 milligrams a day. A day after her first dosage of 90 milligrams, she began suffering from confusion, twitching and became delirious. She died the following day. The victim's family sued the nursing home and hospital on the grounds that they should have realized that 90 milligrams was an excessive amount of morphine for a dialysis patient, that the hospital was inadequately staffed and that the nursing home's workers should have realized the signs and symptoms of morphine toxicity and treated her the day before she died.

Medication errors generally fall into one of several categories:  prescription errors, dispensing errors, medication administration errors and/or patience compliance errors.  Generally speaking, all hospitals and pharmacists should have in place organization systems for administering, ordering, and dispensing medications.   For example, before dispensing a medication in a non-emergency setting, a pharmacist should review an original copy of the written medication order and participate in a self checking process in reading prescriptions, labeling the prescription and dosage calculations.   Pharmacists should never guess or assume the intent of a confusing medication order.  The physician and pharmacist must communicate in those situations to avoid an error.  Medication prescribers, such as doctors, should evaluate the patient's total status before ordering a new medication so as to ensure that the new medication will not adversely interact with medications the patient is currently taking.  Moreover, health care providers should work to ensure that the dosage level for each medication is correct and will not adversely affect the patient or the existing medications of the patient.  

If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of a medication error, contact the lawyers at Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White for a free consultation.   Our office routinely handles such cases and has handled them with considerable success against hospitals including, but not limited to, Johns Hopkins Hospital, University of Maryland Medical System, St. Joseph's Hospital, Union Memorial Hospital, Bon Secours Hospital, St. Agnes Hospital, Sinai Hospital, Anne Arundel County Medical Center, Howard County General Hospital, Frederick Memorial Hospital, Baltimore Washington Medical Center, Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, Washington Adventist Hospital and other facilities around the area.   Our lawyers generally handle these matters on a contingency basis which means that we lay out the expenses for our clients and only seek reimbursement and attorneys' fees following the successful resolution of the case by way of settlement or at trial or on appeal. Our lawyers also routinely receive multi-million dollar verdicts on behalf of our clients in medical malpractice matters throughout the state of Maryland.