Mon. Apr 22nd, 2024

Nurse swapped tap water for fentanyl, killing Oregon patient, lawsuit alleges

By 37ci3 Mar2,2024



A nurse at an Oregon hospital killed a patient by substituting unsterile tap water for pain medication, introducing bacteria into his bloodstream, according to a lawsuit filed this week.

The patient, Horace Wilson, was admitted to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford in January 2022 with a lacerated spleen and broken ribs after falling from a ladder, the complaint states. As he recovered from multiple operations in the intensive care unit, Wilson’s treatment team noticed “an unexplained high fever, a very high white blood cell count, and a sharp drop.” He died in the hospital on February 25, 2022.

“He was only 65 years old, he’s in good health — so he should have recovered from this,” said attorney Justin Idiart, who filed the lawsuit.

The lawsuit adds that Wilson’s treatment team obtained blood cultures during his hospitalization that were positive for Staphylococcus epidermidis, a type of bacteria believed to have been brought in by tap water.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Wilson’s estate and his wife, Patti Wilson, names both Asante and Dani Marie Schofield, the nurse who allegedly switched the drugs, as defendants, accusing them of negligence. Schofield did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Oregon State Board of Nursing records show she voluntarily agreed to have her nursing license suspended pending “completion of an investigation” in November.

Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center, a 378-bed hospital, also did not respond to multiple requests for comment this week, but told NBC News in January that it was “saddened to learn of this matter” and had reported it to the law. protection.

The civil suit seeks about $11.5 million and is the first legal action since the Medford, Oregon, police. confirmed said they were investigating reports of drug theft in Asante in January.

Allegations of drug dealing – a term that refers to the misappropriation, sometimes abuse or illegal distribution of prescribed drugs – have been made public for the first time. NBC affiliate KOBI-TV in Medford. The station reported in December that at least one patient in Asante died after a nurse allegedly swapped painkillers with tap water.

The Medford Police Department declined to comment on how many patients may have been victims of drug diversion.

In a statement Wednesday, the department said it is “actively investigating allegations of the theft and misuse of controlled substances by an employee of Asante Rogue Regional Hospital.” Police did not identify who was being investigated and added “No one has been charged with a crime as a result of this investigation.”

“Since December 2023, investigators have been diligently working on this case,” the statement said. “Many interviews have been conducted and many more are yet to be completed. We carefully review thousands of documents, including medical documents, which require a comprehensive examination and consultation with medical specialists.”

The wrongful-death lawsuit alleges that Asante began telling patients or their families in December that a nurse had substituted fentanyl for tap water, causing bacterial infections.

Idiart said Wilson’s family was not among those contacted, but his relatives suspected Wilson of being a victim as soon as they heard reports of the drug bust.

“They took this turn for the worse and didn’t get a good explanation from Asante about what happened,” Idiart said, adding that the family “observed reactions like it was painful even though they had to be calmed down a lot.” of that time.”

During Wilson’s hospitalization, Schofield was instructed to attach packets of the powerful pain reliever fentanyl to a programmable pump, which delivered the drug to Wilson through a central line, the lawsuit alleges.

Central lines are tubes placed in large veins to administer medication. Bacteria and other germs can enter the bloodstream if the line is not properly inserted or cleaned, or if the fluid administered is not sterile.

It is not safe to allow tap water directly into the bloodstream, as water-borne pathogens can enter the body and cause infection. In hospitals, sterile bags of saline are usually given intravenously for a variety of clinical purposes, including the treatment of dehydration.

Schofield noted in Wilson’s chart that he had received fentanyl on “several dates,” the lawsuit says, when the bag allegedly contained water instead.

According to the complaint, during his hospitalization, Wilson’s condition rapidly deteriorated into multisystem organ failure. He required a tracheostomy to help him breathe.

“Eventually, Horace Wilson was removed from sedation and regained enough mental function to tell the ICU staff that he no longer wanted to live this way,” the lawsuit said.

Idiart said it is investigating more potential allegations involving Asante. After police announced the investigation, “we started getting a lot of calls,” he said.

Two other lawyers told NBC News that they, too, have heard from people who are concerned that they or their loved ones have been affected by drug diversion. Attorneys are investigating those accounts, but have yet to file a lawsuit.

David deVilleneuve, an attorney in southern Oregon, said some families he spoke to were haunted by the possibility that their loved ones might have survived if they had been given the proper care. Compounding his grief is the concern that patients may suffer because of a lack of pain medication, he said.

“When you go from ‘My loved one died of natural causes’ to ‘My wife was killed or negligently killed,’ it’s a different process of mourning and grieving,” deVilleneuve said.



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