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Ohio’s Elderly Care Subpar at Best: Nurses Cause Overdose

— September 20, 2017

Ohio’s Elderly Care Subpar at Best: Nurses Cause Overdose

Normandy Manor in Cleveland, Ohio, declared it was willing to pay $375,000 to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a former resident who passed away hours after nurses gave her 20 times the prescribed dosage of oxycodone while in their care.

The lawsuit was filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court by the family of Susanne Lawrence, 83 at the time of her death.  Her loved ones have accepted the offer and are awaiting Magistrate Judge Heidi Koenig and Probate Judge Anthony Russo’s approval.  A hearing is set for October 2 in the county’s Probate Court.

Lawrence, who died on July 7, 2015, was a grandmother of 21 and great-grandmother of ten.  She owned Lawrence Interior Design, retiring at the age of 70.  In May 2014, she moved into Normandy Manor, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. A little more than a year after she settled in, she was moved to hospice care.  Then, in June 2015, Lawrence contracted pneumonia, which was to be treated by Dr. Kishor Patel with antibiotics and 5 milligrams of oxycodone every four hours for pain.

Ohio's Elderly Care Subpar at Best: Nurses Cause Overdose
Image Courtesy of Jorge Lopez

On July 6 and 7, nurses caring for Lawrence administrated five doses of 100 milligrams of the pain medication.  They had failed to properly read the label on the bottle of oxycodone and did not dilute it before administering the substance.  She died hours later, her death certificate stating she had passed away from cardiorespiratory failure, which was caused by pneumonia, a statement the attorneys called “at best, misleading,” adding that medical records “confirmed that Ms. Lawrence’s death was caused by a drug overdose.”

According to an official at the Ohio Department of Health, the fatality occurred as a result of giving the patient a “higher-concentration solution in the narcotic drawer.”  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services supported this statement, saying, “Facility nurses failed to check the liquid medication label to determine the correct dose prior to administering narcotic medication.”

Each of Lawrence’s six children is set to receive at minimum $27,705 if the settlement is approved.  The family’s attorneys will walk away with $150,000 in fees and $3,778 in expenses.  The Ohio Department of Medicaid is also seeking to collect $54,987 to account for the woman’s medical expenses, but the family’s attorneys are hoping to have this reduced.

A statement submitted by Dr. Patel’s attorney read, “Dr. Patel was not a party to the lawsuit filed by lawyers for the Estate of Ms. Lawrence. He is committed to providing quality medical care to his patients. It is Dr. Patel’s policy not to comment on any individual patient’s care in the press for privacy reasons.”

Brian Lee of Austin, Texas, who is a national authority on nursing homes called the conditions surrounding Lawrence’s death and the quality of nursing home care in Ohio “a real crisis in Ohio for elderly residents…It’s a shock to consumers about the lousy nursing home care there is in Ohio until the federal data hits them in the face.”  At least 31 deaths in Ohio’s facilities over the last three years can be attributed to care issues and almost 41 percent of nursing homes recently received a below-average rating of one or two stars on the federal Nursing Home Compare standard.  Unfortunately, Lawrence’s case is far from unique.


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