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Family of Hawaii woman given deadly drug patch sues doctor

Prescription drugs are one of the wonders of the modern age. Diseases that were incurable or untreatable a century ago can now easily be controlled and eliminated with medication.

These drugs are often quite powerful, with harmful effects if the patient is not given them in safe doses. Doctors and pharmacists owe patients the duty of due care to make sure they are fully informed about dosage limits and possible side effects of the drugs they are taking. Unfortunately, sometimes negligent medical professionals commit medical errors that expose their patients to risk of terrible harm, even death.

A medical malpractice lawsuit filed in a Hawaii court concerns a 32-year-old woman who died in 2012 from prescription drugs she was prescribed by a Kailua physician. According to the suit, the doctor and a pharmacist at Longs Drugs gave her three times the safe dosage of a topical painkiller for her back pain.

The woman was prescribed a fentanyl patch. Warnings from the Food and Drug Administration and the manufacturer said not to prescribe fentanyl to people who had not recently been taking opioids or narcotics, which the victim had not. Nevertheless, neither her doctor nor the pharmacist warned her of the risk, despite knowing her drug history, her family’s attorney said.

How long the woman wore the patches is not clear. She collapsed in her home and died in July 2012. The medical examiner ruled that she died of the effects of fentanyl and another drug.

This case of alleged medical malpractice is especially sad, because the woman is survived by her husband and their two young children. The family lost a mother and wife, as well as possibly an income earner.

Source: KITV-TV, “Deadly prescription overdose kills mother,” March 17, 2014

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