Family of patient who died after orthopedic surgery wins $35 million verdict against hospital

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A jury on February 22 reward $35 million to the family of a man who died hours after undergoing orthopedic surgery at Springhill Medical Center in Mobile, Alabama more than seven years ago.

6 details:

1. In 2014, Jay West badly cut the tip of his left thumb using a table saw. An orthopedic surgeon at Springhill Medical Center told him the fingertip amputation was medically necessary.

2. The procedure was uneventful and the orthopedic surgeon wrote a prescription for up to 4 milligrams of Dilaudid IV every three hours for pain management, according to Cunningham Bounds, the law firm representing the patient’s family. Mr West was moved to the orthopedic floor of the hospital, where he was to spend the night and return home the following day.

3. A nurse administered 4 milligrams of Dilaudid IV to Mr. West and another 4 milligrams less than two hours later. Nursing staff failed to monitor Mr West after the second dose and he was found unconscious nearly four hours later, the law firm said. He died less than 10 hours after the operation,

4. In 2012, the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations issued a sentinel event alert related to the safe use of opioids in hospitals. The recommendations in the alert emphasized that Mr. West should have been identified as high risk for opioid-induced respiratory depression and should have undergone serial respiratory monitoring as well as continuous electronic monitoring of his oxygen saturation levels.

5. Dilaudid has an FDA black box warning due to its life-threatening side effect of causing respiratory depression and cardiorespiratory arrest.

6. The jury returned the verdict after finding that the hospital failed to implement any of the safety measures outlined by the JCAHO and did not train its nurses on how to protect patients from the dangers of opioids postoperative intravenous, according to the law firm.

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