Feds Say Hospital Covered Up Anesthesia Error
Vanderbilt University Hospital is being accused of covering up a lethal medication error. According to reports, a woman, who was otherwise recovering from a surgery was supposed to be administered a mild sedative. Instead, she was allegedly given the highly potent anesthesia medication vecuronium which caused the woman to lose consciousness and suffer a cardiac arrest. She suffered brain death and died the following day.
The investigation was conducted by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services who allege that this information was not handed over to the medical examiner who was responsible for determining the cause of death. The Vanderbilt doctor who spoke with the medical examiner is believed to have told them that the patient died from “internal bleeding” and that any talk concerning a medication error was “hearsay.”
A spokesman for Vanderbilt did not address questions concerning what may or may not have been said to the ME by any hospital staff. He did, however, indicate that the woman was discharged to the ME within 40 minutes of her death and that any conclusion that could be drawn from her cause of death would have been premature at that point.
Woman Admitted with Subdural Hematoma
According to reports, the woman was admitted to Vanderbilt University Hospital complaining of headaches and blurred vision. She was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma (bleeding of the brain) and was reportedly treated and recovering. The investigation indicated that the patient was alert and awake.
The hospital decided at this point to conduct a full-body scan, but the patient told hospital staff that she was claustrophobic. The hospital prescribed her Versed to manage her anxiety and enable the scan to be performed. Why the scan was conducted after the patient was recovering is unclear.
The investigation indicated that, when the nurse went to fill the prescription, she could not find the drug Versed listed in the database. She proceeded to trigger an override for more powerful medications. One of the results was vecuronium. The nurse was alleged to have mistakenly given the patient vecuronium instead of Versed. The patient was left in the scanning machine for 30 minutes before anyone realized she was no longer breathing. By then it was too late.
CMS claims that the medication error was discovered at this point and doctors were informed about the error. The death was reported to the medical examiner but the medication error was never reported.
Vanderbilt officials contend that the patient received a very small dose of vecuronium and that they were unsure if the drug had anything to do with the patient’s death.
If it is determined that Vanderbilt did conceal the cause of the patient’s death, they may be subject to fines by the federal government, and CMS could revoke their Medicare and Medicaid coverage.
Talk to a Tampa Medical Malpractice Attorney
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