Partner at Kennedy Hodges LLP practicing pharmacy error, medical malpractice and personal injury law
Posted on Mar 08, 2012A lawsuit was filed in Washington last week against Providence St. Peter Hospital after a fatal medication error caused the death of an 88-year old woman.
Mary Ann Stoddard was admitted to the telemetry unit at Providence St. Peter Hospital in late 2008. The lawsuit states that the admitting physician “was optimistic regarding Mrs. Stoddard’s prognosis and anticipated a brief stay.”
Stoddard, 88, was being treated for tachycardia and was on a diltiazem drip. Since diltiazem slows electrical conduction in the heart, the drip is normally shut off “if a patient’s heart rate drops below 60 beats per minute,” the ward’s nurse supervisor said.
For some reason, this hospital protocol was not followed in Stoddard’s case. Throughout the night, her heart rate dropped from 62 beats to 51, and then to 40 before the diltiazem drip was removed. Hospital records show that although her stats were measured every hour, no effort was made to correct her declining heart rate.
The suit states that if hospital protocol had been followed, Stoddard’s death “may have been prevented.”
Thurston County coroner’s office declared Stoddard’s death accidental, caused by “bradycardia, coronary artery disease, aspiration pneumonia and overmedication of diltiazem.” Coroner Gary Warnock said that his office received a hospital medication error report confirming that a diltiazem overdose contributed to her death.
The hospital acknowledged that an accident occurring in a unit specifically designed to monitor a patient’s vital signs is a cause for concern, and told Stoddard’s family “that the nurse on duty during the night shift who was responsible for Mrs. Stoddard’s care was relieved of her duties.”
Stoddard’s family is seeking damages for the costs of her hospital care, funeral expenses, loss of life and attorney fees. An unspecified monetary award is also included in the wrongful death suit.