Sometimes, medical malpractice results in wrongful death, and sometimes the malpractice is a medication error. In a recent legal case, one patient in a SW Virginia assisted living facility died as a result of being given medication for another patient.
Since he was in his late teens, a man had been in various assisted living facilities due to a history of substance abuse and mental illness. At the time of his death at age 62, he had been a patient in one Southwest Virginia facility for the last 20 years.
On one evening, when the patients were gathered for the administration of their medications by the medical technician. The technician gave this man (the Plaintiff) medications that were prescribed for another patient. One of these drugs was clozapine, a drug used to treat schizophrenia that was not treated effectively with other drugs. This drug also was used to reduce the risk of suicide in these patients.
When the medical technician realized that the error had been made, the man was given his own prescribed medications in addition. The technician then proceeded to administer medications to other residents. After that, several phone calls were made by the technician. One of the calls appears to have been to the nursing administrator of the facility. As the case developed, it was very important to learn what the technician was instructed to do by the nursing administrator.
Investigation of this incident later revealed that the technician did not call 911, or poison control, or any physician after discovering the mistake. Nor did anyone make any of these calls on behalf of the technician. After roughly 45 minutes elapsed the man was found unresponsive in his room. Only then was a 911 call made. The investigation also revealed that the cause of death was acute Clozapine toxicity.
Because the man’s death resulted from administration of another person’s medications in addition to his own and the delay in contacting authorities, the Virginia State Police were called. They responded immediately. Upon their arrival, the Virginia State Police confiscated all of the man’s medical records and files. They also confiscated all of the surveillance videos that revealed in detail what had happened.
In due course the medical technician was indicted on one count of involuntary manslaughter. She entered a guilty plea and received a suspended five-year prison sentence.
The plaintiff had never married but had one adult child who lived outside the Commonwealth. There had been very little communication between the two during the last 20 years and the child had been incarcerated for an extended period. Plaintiff also had very limited contact with two siblings.
One of the plaintiff’s sisters qualified as administrator or executor of his estate for the single purpose of pursuing the wrongful death action.
During early discussions between the attorneys for the involved persons led, in time, to a settlement agreement for the plaintiff for $497,500.00.
Everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes have been made in medication administration before and will be made after this case. We do not know if a timely and appropriate response by the medical technician would have saved this plaintiff’s life. But it is reasonable to conclude, as was true in this case, that the harm to the plaintiff was compounded by the delayed and inappropriate responses of the medical technician and by the apparent lack of action by others in the facility.
Malpractice can occur in any medical setting. When a mistake is made, the most important response is to obtain appropriate assistance for the patient. When the needs of the patient are not given proper priority and the failure to respond results in death, the matter is a case of wrongful death.
Most assisted care facilities and nursing homes and competent and caring. Most employees of these facilities carefully attend to their duties and the needs of their patients. If a mistake is made or a staff member is negligent, most facilities have response protocols that ensure appropriate and timely responses.
If you or a loved one is harmed by the medical malpractice of a facility staff member, whether or not the outcome is wrongful death, you may have the right to recover damages or to recover damages on behalf of your loved one. Should you need legal assistance in a medical malpractice matter, call the experienced team at Altizer Law, P.C. Come to the office and discuss your matter with Bettina Altizer. Should you decide to talk legal action our team will go to work to support Bettina in negotiation or in court. Call Roanoke, VA’s trusted medical malpractice attorney to fight for you.