Nursing home death caused by deliberate overmedication

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Jun 07, 2012 in Nursing Home Information

Thousands of nursing home Injuries and deaths are caused by medication errors each year, including many in West Virginia. Sadder still is the fact that some of those "medication errors" aren't really errors at all -- rather, they are deliberate attempts to use powerful and potentially deadly pharmaceutical drugs as a means to control nursing home residents.

Earlier this week, a former nurse who committed this type of nursing home abuse pled guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge and was sentenced to a prison term of five months followed by 2- years of probation. She has also been permanently barred from working in the health care or nursing home fields.

Prosecutors in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, say the woman gave liquid morphine to at least nine patients in the Alzheimer's unit of the nursing home she worked at to make those residents more manageable.

When one of those patients, an 84-year-old woman, died unexpectedly -- a medical examiner reviewed her records and determined that "morphine toxicity" was a contributing factor in her death.

Because morphine toxicity should not have been a risk for this patient based on her medication regimen, administrators at the home placed all of the staff members on paid leave, tested those staff members and the unit's residents for drugs (some of whom tested positive for opiates despite not having a prescription for them), and began to monitor all patients in the unit 24-hours a day. Fortunately, authorities eventually traced the problem back to the nurse who pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter this week.

As for the home where she worked? The Alzheimer's patient death also prompted a state investigation that resulted in the facility being fined for several serious problems, including a significant number of medication errors.

Source:, "Nurse pleads guilty in patient's death at Chapel Hill home," Erin Hartness, June 4, 2012

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