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A 20-year Army veteran dies of suspected medicine overdose

A 20-year Army veteran and his family had not even been able to welcome moving trucks to their Ashville area home when he came down with what is suspected to have been the flu. His illness led the couple to take what was less than a one-mile trip down to the local VA hospital in the hope of confirming the man's self-diagnosis.

Much to their shock, the man was met with a much more serious diagnosis -- diverticulitis and a small bowel perforation. The father of three was immediately admitted to the hospital where he would be treated for the infection that resulted in the perforation in the first place.

Knowing that the movers had come and gone and with their kids at home to attend to, the wife returned home, with the expectation that the husband would be treated and released from the hospital within 7 days. Little did she expect to visit the hospital later on that evening only to be pulled aside by her husband's physician telling that he now had moved to the ICU.

While doing her rounds, a nurse found the man to not be breathing. Despite being deemed a non-critical patient, he was being administered a powerful narcotic, Dilaudid at a dose of 1mg every four hours. By Feb. 6, 2012, the wife entered her husband's room to find him having CPR performed on him. He died that same day.

Soon thereafter, the attending ICU physician pulled the decedent's wife and sister aside to let them know that he felt both morally and ethically compelled to advise them that the man had been the victim of a medical error. He not only told them, but documented this fact in his notes.

In the deposition of the attending ICU physician pursuant to the widow's 2013 medical malpractice lawsuit, while not denying the overdose, he did assert that there was no proof that there was a correlation between the veteran's death and an overdose of Dilaudid. Instead, he said, autopsy results showed his death could have been brought on by a heart attack.

This case unfortunately is just one of many medical malpractice or wrongful death cases the VA has settled in recent years. If you or someone you know has either sustained an injury or been killed as a result of medical error, a North Carolina medical malpractice attorney is your best resource for help.

Source: WNCN.com, "Veteran dies after medication error at NC VA hospital," March 01, 2017

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