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Medical malpractice lawsuit shows medicine errors can be fatal

Prescription and hospital-administered medicine errors are a significant problem in the United States. Because prescriptions and doctors' instructions get passed down to nurses, pharmacists and others, there are opportunities for errors to be made nearly anywhere along the chain of command.

That being said, some medicine errors are as simple as a nurse administering a drug based on the assumption that a patient should have it. A mistake like this proved fatal at a Pennsylvania hospital in 2007. And last month, the victim's widow was awarded approximately $1.5 million by a jury in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

According to news sources, a retired school teacher went into the hospital for heart surgery in 2007. The surgery was successful, but a problem occurred later that day. A nurse started the man on a nitroglycerin drip, which is sometimes given to certain patients to prevent a spike in blood pressure. However, the nurse administered the nitroglycerin drip "despite no order to do so."

Less than 20 minutes later, the patient's blood pressure dropped substantially, prompting medical staff to attempt CPR and other emergency measures. These were unsuccessful and the man died within a couple hours.

In a lawsuit that went to trial last month, jurors found that the hospital had been negligent. The man's widow was awarded $1.2 million for emotional distress, $280,000 in economic damages and another $10,000 for expenses related to the death of her husband.

Depending on the type of drug and the health of the person taking it, the consequences of a medicine error can range from relatively harmless to fatal. With a heart-compromised patient who just had surgery, there is simply no room for mistakes or assumptions.

Source: Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, "Jury awards $1.5 million in Wilkes-Barre General Hospital death," Roger DuPuis, Aug. 20, 2014

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Breslin and Breslin, PA, Donald A. Caminiti, Esq., was one of six law firms selected by the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey to act as special counsel to represent it in its lawsuit against the tobacco industry to recover Medicaid and other health related costs incurred by the state resulting from tobacco related illnesses.