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Nursing facility morphine overdose causes brain damage

When doctors don’t pay attention to what dose they prescribe for a drug, brain damage may happen.

This case is another that could have easily been prevented. It’s another situation where a patient was given an accidental overdose of morphine. If the doctor had been paying attention to what he was doing, this victim would not have suffered brain damage. The case happened just recently in Baltimore. A 57-year-old woman had foot surgery to repair a tendon. After the operation, she went to a nursing facility for recovery.

Less than six hours after surgery, the podiatrist who did the surgery ordered 50 mg of morphine when she should have ordered 50 mg of Demerol for the woman’s pain. The error wasn’t discovered until the next day and by then the woman had suffered brain damage. The case went to verdict and the jury awarded $2 million for pain and suffering and $1.1 million for medical costs. The punitive damages are still pending.

The jury found the nursing facility 90 percent responsible for the medication error. Her podiatrist was assessed at 10 percent for writing the wrong prescription in the first place. While that may seem a bit skewed, since the initial medication error was committed by the podiatrist, the jury felt the nursing facility should have discovered the error before they administered the medication. What makes this case even worse is the fact that the pharmacist who filled the prescription warned the facility that the dose was too strong.

Despite being warned that the dose was too high, the nurses on duty had to go get extra morphine from an emergency office supply to top up the woman’s dose to the 50 mg. They could only initially find 20 mg. This ghastly series of errors, one compounding the other, gave an innocent woman brain damage. Morphine overdoses need medical attention immediately, and that didn’t happen in this instance.

The shocking thing here is that being medical professionals, the doctor and the nursing facility RNs would know that morphine dulls the brain’s pain perception center. Overdosing may cause confusion, a weak pulse, extreme drowsiness, clammy and cold to the touch skin, faint or very shallow breathing or cessation of breathing. In other words, an overdose of morphine can stop someone’s breathing. That could have happened in this case as well, but instead, the woman suffered brain damage. While her family is grateful she is still alive, they wonder at what cost?

This case could quite well have been a wrongful death, and the fact that it wasn’t is a small miracle. If you have been in a similar situation, speak to a New Hampshire personal injury lawyer about filing a personal injury lawsuit. Find out your rights, how to proceed in an overdose case and what you may expect when the case goes to settlement or verdict.

Charlie Donahue is a New Hampshire personal injury lawyer located in Keene. Donahue handles injury cases in New Hampshire and across the United States. To learn more about New Hampshire injury attorney, Charlie Donahue, visit

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