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Medication errors cited as contributing factor in patient's death

Most nursing home residents are on some type of medication or health care treatment that requires careful attention from staff. West Virginia families place a significant amount of trust in nursing home facilities when handing them the responsibility for their loved ones' medical care. Sadly, medication errors and other negligence can and do occur within nursing homes.

An out-of-state nursing home was recently cited for neglect and errors that led to a resident's death. Suffering from kidney disease, the elderly man had been transferred to the facility only the day before his death. The man's physician intended for him to receive hospice care, which included regular doses of the drug morphine sulfate. After he prescribed the morphine, the dose was incorrectly transcribed by a staff member.

At least one nurse told investigators that he had questioned the size of the dosage. However, he was apparently told that it was correct, and staff subsequently administered a dose of morphine 10 times what the physician had actually prescribed. Staff acknowledged that the dose was too large only afterward. A secondary medication was administered in an attempt to block the effects of the morphine, but it was apparently unsuccessful as the patient's breathing continued to deteriorate. The facility's primary physician admitted that excessively large dose of the drug had likely influenced the man's death.

The nursing home's official citation was for failing to correctly transcribe the dosage. Citations such as this might be of a little comfort to families in West Virginia who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Although nothing can ever truly replace a person's life, families who have lost members because of medication errors and neglect may be entitled to achieve compensation for related damages -- including unexpected funeral costs -- by successfully navigating wrongful death claims to completion.

Source: startribune.com, "Morphine error leads to patient's death; northwest Minnesota nursing home faulted", Chris Serres, April 6, 2016

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