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Could medication monitoring have prevented medical mistake?

A woman was watching television with her husband and started to experience trouble breathing. He took his wife to the hospital to find out what was wrong and get treatment. She died a few hours later from an overdose of fentanyl, a powerful pain medication. She was one of 25 suspicious deaths at an Ohio hospital, and all 25 of the patients were under the care of the same doctor. Were their deaths the result of a medical mistake?

The case concerns the amount of medication prescribed by the doctor as well as the hospital's control of the medication itself. According to the podcast accompanyng the article, the hospital makes use of an automatic dispensing machine to fill medication orders from the doctors. Nurses and pharmacists taking medication from the machine had the ability to override high dosage warnings and dosage limits. In addition, it does not appear that careful monitoring of inventory was in place. It is believed that awareness of the decline in inventory may have called attention to a possible issue.

The podcast also raises the concern as to whether complaints and questions that were raised regarding the dosage amounts reached the higher levels of administration in the hospital. While some nurses and pharmacists appear to have followed procedure, there may have been a breakdown in communication along the way. All of these questions and more are the subject of multiple civil lawsuits against the hospital and doctor in question. Adding to the pain and anguish of the families, the hospital recently stated that five of those who died had a good chance of recovery prior to being administered the fentanyl.

People trust hospitals and doctors in Ohio to exercise their best judgment in treating patients who have been entrusted to their care. Doctors are human and so are not infallible. Policies, such as those in place on pharmacy dispensing machines, are there in part to help safeguard against a potential medical mistake.

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