Earlier this month, a Chicago couple settled a tragic wrongful death case involving their newborn because of a medication error at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois. The medication error occurred when the hospital mistakenly gave a newborn an overdose of medicine that was sixty times stronger than intended. As a medical malpractice lawyer experienced in medication error lawsuits, I was pleased to learn that the hospital actually admitted its mistake early on in the case.
In the US, 7,000 people die every year from medication errors. According to one study, 1 in 50 patients who are admitted to a hospital experience a preventable adverse drug reaction. Preventable adverse drug events are not only cause unnecessary harm to patients and, at times, even death, they also are costly to the healthcare system. According one study, preventable adverse drug events cost the healthcare system $2 billion dollars annually. The most common source of medication error is manually programming infusion parameters, such as infusion rate and dosage, incorrectly into the device. This is a type of human error.
On September 6, 2010, Genesis Burket was born prematurely at 24 weeks gestation. The typical gestation period is 40 weeks. In many instances, children born at 24 weeks do not survive but Genesis made remarkable progress in the hospital. Doctors even suggested to the couple they could take their son home in time for Christmas. However, things went tragically wrong before after that.
On October 15, 2010, one of Genesis' doctors ordered an IV bag of sodium. However, the IV bag ultimately given to Genesis was 60 times stronger than the dose ordered by the doctor. Genesis died shortly being given the wrong dosage. The medical malpractice lawyer representing the family successfully convinced the hospital that this medication error was avoidable and this mistake ultimately resulted in the baby's death.
Contrary to what often occurs, Lutheran General admitted its mistake early in the case. The fact the mistake was so clear and resulted in death, of course, made it more difficult for the hospital to deny liability. That said, there have been plenty of fatal medication errors in which the hospital attempted to cover up their mistake. The fact Lutheran General was honest and upfront with the family in this case is certainly commendable. Since then, the hospital has begun implementing new policies designed prevented the type of medication error that occurred in this case.
Chicago Daily Herald, Lutheran General To Pay $8.25 Million In Baby's Death, April 5, 2012.
B Braun Website, The Case For Improved IV Medication Safety, Viewed April 17, 2012.