Untrained hospital staff results in wrongful death case – $15 Million.
Theresa Oden, 45, of Mobile, Alabama walked into the Springhill Memorial Hospital on November 7th, 2008, for diagnostic work on her own account. A few hours later the patient and mother of three underwent immediate cardiac bypass surgery, which was very successful. Fast forward several hours later and the patient was still in great condition when the evening nursing shift switched and Oden was in the care of a new nurse who was inadequately trained and unqualified to handle her care. The new employee was unsupervised and left alone when she proceeded to administer a large amount of Propofol to the patient. The overdose of the powerful anesthetic medication forced Oden into a cardiac arrest, and she passed away 18 minutes later.
Further investigation showed how the patient was in great health after the surgery until administered with the medication, which caused Oden’s death. It was evident by the family of the victim that Oden’s death was at fault of the untrained nurse and the hospital who employed her.
On June 25th, 2012, a $15 million dollar verdict was settled against Springhill Memorial Hospital for the wrongful death of 45-year-old Theresa Oden. After two weeks of debate, the jury announced the hospital was liable for placing the patient’s care in the hands of an inadequate employee. The court also acknowledges how the nurse made numerous medical errors in the administering the medication.
Joseph M. Brown Jr. and J. Brian Duncan Jr. represented Oden in the wrongful death lawsuit, where they gathered key information and witnesses. They established Oden was an “ideal” candidate after her surgery and was in great health until the new nurse overdosed her. The large amounts of Propofol caused Oden’s blood pressure to descend and she soon fell into a coma. The nurse then made numerous changes to the patient’s ventilator and vital signs attempting to cover up the accident. After Oden’s death, leftover medication had been discarded along with the computer memory used to administer the drug had been destroyed. This tampering of evidence suggests Springhill was involved in trying to cover up the death.
Springhill also had different medical records and entries for the patient from the time after the death to the time of the lawsuit. It took three years and numerous trips to the Supreme Court of Alabama before the truth of the patient’s death had come about.
Key witness for the plaintiff was Dr. John Downs, a renowned critical care specialist in Florida. He believed there was a direct link between the victim’s death and the improper dose of Propofol. Dr. Downs believes there was a distinct time when the plaintiff went into respiratory depression and the new employee failed to call for help for 25 minutes. The medical expert also commented how the nurse did not properly have a ventilator connected to the patient at the time of the overdose.
According to a PR Newswire Press Release, a nursing expert witness described violations to the plaintiff’s standard of care. Kim Smith, R.N., of Arizona, concluded:
- “Springhill’s employment of a nurse in its Cardiac Recovery Unit who had none of the required paperwork establishing that she had been appropriately trained and tested in order to be given the responsibility for monitoring and caring for recovering heart bypass patients;
- Springhill’s employment records demonstrating that its nurse had virtually no experience in providing care to post-cardiac bypass surgery patients and no proficiency in administration of the dangerous anesthetic, Propofol;
- Springhill ‘s nurse’s repeated failure to follow physicians’ orders, coupled with her “practicing” on that evening beyond the scope of her competency while left unsupervised by the hospital;
- The nurse’s admission that she observed profound neurological and blood pressure changes in her patient which she recognized were directly related to the Propofol administration but never called for help from any physician or from her own hospital’s Rapid Response Team as required;
- The nurse’s administration of Propofol without first ensuring that the patient was protected by a mechanical ventilator, and then failing to respond correctly and immediately once she realized her mistake;
- The hospital’s loss, destruction, and deletion of critical medical records, which is a clear violation of Alabama law.”
The plaintiffs focused their efforts on the trust between patients and medical care providers. The patient and her family believed the hospital would take care of her, and would employ a proper staff to do so. This case was obviously a violation of the victim’s trust by her health care providers.
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