75-year-old woman dies in 'torturous, searing pain' after nurse mistakenly gives her fatal dose of a drug used in lethal injection
Investigators say that the nurse, who had a hard time finding Versed, mistakenly took out the paralyzing anesthetic Vecuronium
Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center is under fire after a nurse mistakenly administered a fatal dose of the wrong medication in December last year. The unnamed 75-year-old had visited the hospital for headaches, vision loss, and other related symptoms. Since she was scheduled for a PET scan that could have triggered her claustrophobia, she requested for a small amount of anti-anxiety drug named Versed, instead, was given a deadly dose of Vecuronium, a drug that induces paralysis.
The incident occurred on the day after Christmas in 2017, and it caused the elderly woman to go into cardiac arrest. Even though she would have experienced excruciating pain and breathlessness, she would have lived in pain for a long while, claims Brian Manookian, a Nashville attorney who is involved in the wrongful death suit filed by the family.
Manookian, who is experienced in dealing with wrongful death cases, told News4, “The nurse who went to retrieve the Versed in this case instead retrieved the lethal injection drug. It’s the drug used in the lethal injection protocol in Tennessee and other states to execute murderers and serial killers.” He further added, “She would have fully experienced torturous, searing pain as her lungs shut down and she was unable to verbalize what was occurring being fully awake and aware the entire time.”
Investigators say that the nurse, who had a hard time finding Versed typed ‘VE’ into the system and mistakenly took out the paralyzing anesthetic Vecuronium. The victim was moved to the PET scan equipment almost immediately and the symptoms went unnoticed. The investigation concluded that “The hospital failed to ensure all patients received care in a safe setting and staff followed standards of practice and utilized their nursing skills and training to ensure the correct medications were administered to all patients.”
Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Chief Communications Officer, John Howser, added, “We identified that the error occurred because a staff member had bypassed multiple safety mechanisms that were in place to prevent such errors.” The hospital was forced to submit "plan of correction" wherein they detailed the plans to prevent similar errors from taking place in the future.
The complete statement from Howser reads, “VUMC was notified of an adverse finding by the Tennessee Department of Health after an on-site survey involving a patient who died in December 2017 following a medication error. In reviewing the event at the time it happened, we identified that the error occurred because a staff member had bypassed multiple safety mechanisms that were in place to prevent such errors.
"We disclosed the error to the patient’s family as soon as we confirmed that an error had occurred, and immediately took necessary corrective actions (including appropriate personnel actions). We will continue to work closely with representatives of the Tennessee Department of Health and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to assure that any remaining concerns are fully resolved within the specified time frame.”