Morphine overdose led to death: lawsuit

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A Steinbach family has launched a lawsuit against a rural hospital, alleging medical staff gave their relative a lethal dose of morphine to treat pain in his right knee.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/08/2010 (4481 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Steinbach family has launched a lawsuit against a rural hospital, alleging medical staff gave their relative a lethal dose of morphine to treat pain in his right knee.

Family of Henry Peters Dyck filed a statement of claim against the South Eastman Regional Health Authority at the end of July seeking damages for negligence that allegedly contributed to his death. Relatives declined to speak with the Free Press, but documents filed in the Court of Queen’s Bench claim Dyck suffered a heart attack and died on Aug. 2, 2008, in Bethesda Hospital after he overdosed on morphine administered by staff.

Court documents allege Dyck was admitted to hospital on July 23, 2008, with hemarthrosis in his right knee, a condition involving pain and bleeding in the joint. Dyck was prescribed 10 to 30 milligrams of liquid morphine every four hours, as needed.

The statement of claim alleges that on Aug. 1, a nurse gave Dyck a cup containing 100 milligrams of morphine, as opposed to the 20 milligrams he was supposed to ingest at that time.

"Upon ingesting the morphine, Mr. Dyck began to experience distress. It was determined that Mr. Dyck was suffering from morphine poisoning as a result of having ingested five times the amount of morphine ordered for him," the statement says.

Court documents allege hospital staff attempted to reverse the morphine poisoning under the direction of Dr. Curtis Krahn by pumping his stomach, flushing his bowel and inducing vomiting. None of the measures worked, and Dyck’s condition deteriorated until he suffered a heart attack and died four hours after the overdose.

The cause of Dyck’s death was subsequently confirmed by an autopsy, court documents said.

The statement of claim alleges nurse Natascha Regier failed to administer the correct dose of morphine, and that Krahn failed to take timely, appropriate action to counter the effects of morphine poisoning.

Court documents said hospital staff did not give Dyck Naloxone, a well-known and readily available drug that stops the life-threatening effects of opiates such as morphine. They claim treatment methods were "invasive, painful and ineffective" and ultimately contributed to Dyck’s premature death.

"As a result of the breach of duty and negligence, Mr. Dyck suffered pain and discomfort prior to his death," the claim alleges.

South Eastman Regional Health Authority officials will not comment on the lawsuit, but said they take patient safety issues very seriously.

"Any concern that’s brought to the organization we always review it to see what we can do to make things better," said spokeswoman Tara Mangano. "Patient safety is our No. 1 priority."

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

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