Young Girl Narrowly Survives Morphine Overmedication in Hospital

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently updated one of its website pages regarding medication error and consumer awareness. One of the stories included is a cautionary tale for all hospitalized individuals receiving medication intravenously.

When a 9 year old girl shattered her elbow on the soccer field, her M.D. parents took great care in selecting a hospital for her treatment. Following a successful three hour surgery to repair her injury, the girl was prescribed morphine through a pump, and was also hooked up to a heart rate monitor, breathing monitor, and blood oxygen monitor. She responded so well, that doctors decided to turn the morphine pump off, and discontinue regular vital sign checks.

The girl’s mother slept in her daughter’s hospital room that night. When she woke up in the midde of the night to check on her, the girl was barely breathing, and was verbally non-responsive. Apparently, the morphine pump was not only still turned on, but in fact had been turned up to high. The narcotic flooded the girl’s body, but thankfully she survived the ordeal. It is disturbing to consider what may have happened if the mother hadn’t woken up when she did.

The parents in this case were satisfied with the manner in which the hospital handled the error, which included acknowledging the error, addressing future treatment for their daughter, and a plan for how to avoid such errors in the future. The mother believes that short staffing and a holiday weekend may have been contributing factors.

This case includes not only an improperly administered drug, but most likely implicates medical malpractice. Under Maryland law, in order to establish a successful medical malpractice claim, the patient must demonstrate that the treating healthcare professional failed to meet the appropriate standard of care. The standard of care is defined as the generally accepted procedures and practices used by medical professionals when treating patients with the particular disease or disorder at hand, within the same general geographic area. The standard of care can vary based upon a number of factors, which includes the patient’s age and medical history. In addition to showing that the doctor or medical provider breached the standard of care, the patient must also show that this breach is responsible for causing the injuries.

Therefore, in this case, if the girl’s family decided to bring a malpractice case on the basis of the overdose of morphine and lack of monitoring of her vital signs, the claims would focus on how patients in similar post-op situations would be monitored. However, it seems fairly clear that the turning up of the morphine, while clearly an accident, probably provides an actionable negligence claim, as it could have clearly caused serious damage and potentially even killed the girl.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a medication or pharmacy error, such as the one that occurred with this case of intravenous drug administration error, the experienced Maryland attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen can help. Our attorneys have extensive experience in advocating on behalf of individuals who have been harmed by medication errors, whether they were improperly prescribed, dispensed, or administered. Contact us today by calling us at (800) 654-1949 or through our website, in order to schedule your complimentary initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Improperly Mixed Nutritional Supplements Given to 186 Babies & Children in Compounding Error, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, published April 29, 2013
Electronic Health Records May Increase Risk of Medication Errors, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, published April 19, 2013

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