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"Outrageous" drug error leads to wrongful death suit

The family of a Pennsylvania resident who died on the day he was admitted to a Beaver County nursing home is suing the facility and six staff members who reportedly conspired to keep a medical error a secret. The wrongful death claim was bumped to a federal court because a civil rights violation was alleged with medical malpractice.

Court papers say the 40-year-old Ambridge man entered the county-operated Friendship Ridge facility involuntarily in late April. A court had determined the man had a severe mental handicap and required in-patient treatment.

The patient suffered from sleep apnea, a potentially-dangerous condition that causes a person to ceases breathing while asleep. The nursing home resident required but was not provided with a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP machine to help him breathe.

On the evening of the man's arrival, the patient was allegedly administered the wrong prescription medication. The nurse almost immediately followed the incorrect dose with the patient's regular medication. Among the drugs the nursing home resident took were medications to calm the central nervous system, drugs that could affect the man's breathing.

The prescription mix-up was allegedly reported to a supervisor, who cautioned the nurse to keep the information secret. The medical staff is accused of doing nothing to help the over-drugged patient, who was found dead the following morning.

Damages sought in the wrongful death suit include pain, suffering and mental anguish along with medical costs, punitive damages and any other compensation possible. Beaver County officials have promised to mount a defense against the accusations of "outrageous conduct."

Victims who survive medical mistreatment and the families of victims who die as a result of negligence have the right to request compensation. An error in medication can threaten the life of a patient. A facility and staff who do nothing to aid a victim, suffering because of something they've caused, can be held accountable for their actions in civil court.

Source: timesonline.com, "Nursing home, nurses sued for wrongful death," Kristen Doerschner, Oct. 23, 2012

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