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Blood thinner mistake prompts wrongful death suit against hospital

March 24, 2011, by Jeffrey L. Peek

A medication error involving blood thinners killed a 76 year old patient who had been admitted to the hospital for an infection. Claims involving medication errors are, unfortunately, common and they can often have devastating consequences. In Maryland, and in particular, in Baltimore where there are a number of hospitals, injuries, adverse reactions and deaths involving medication or drug errors or mistakes are the types of cases regularly seen by medical malpractice attorneys.

According to The Boston Globe, the patient was admitted to the hospital after developing an infection following a shoulder injury. However, the hospital staff mistakenly gave her far too much of a blood thinning drug, which caused her to hemorrhage for 12 hours before she died. Drugs like Heparin, Coumadin and Lovenox are common blood thinners. These medications are potentially dangerous because they disrupt the body’s natural ability to clot or stop bleeding. Medical malpractice claims involving prescription or administration errors for Heparin, Coumidin or Lovenox are not uncommon because the medications are so dangerous if not used and monitored properly.

The patient’s family plans to sue Massachusetts General Hospital for the medication error that caused her death. The family is filing a wrongful death claim against the doctors involved with the patient as well as the hospital. Remarkably, the Hospital acknowledged the mistake, apologized to the family and reported the error to the Department of Public Health. Unfortunately, the vast majority of medication or drug mistakes are not reported or acknowledged. In looking through a patient’s medical record, it often takes experience and knowledge to recognize that a medication mistake has occurred. A skilled and experience medical malpractice lawyer should be able to identify very quickly whether there has been a mistake.

For example, we handled a medical malpractice claim involving a death after a nurse failed to continue the administration of Heparin to a patient who had blood clots. The family had no idea why their loved one died and the hospital never told them about the mistake. It was only after our firm investigated the death that the mistake was revealed. The Hospital in this case is the exception because they disclosed and took responsibility for the mistake. In the vast majority of the drug error or medication mistake cases, the only way a family or loved one may find out about the error is by having a medical malpractice law firm investigate the death or injury.