Last week an Orange County jury awarded $3.1 million to a woman who suffered a medication overdose at a skilled nursing home that left her brain damaged. Barbara Lefforge, only 57 years old was sent to St. Edna’s center for rehabilitation after a tendon repair surgery. She had only been there 5 ½ hours when the medication error occurred, explained an Orange County injury attorney.
According to court records, after her surgery her doctor recommended that she stay at St. Edna’s skilled nursing facility until she recuperated. She was mistakenly given 50mg of morphine instead of 50mg of Demerol. Since this was such an excessive dose, Lefforge’s attorney argued that medical personnel should have questioned that dosage order. Moreover the staff pharmacist even warned that the dosage was too high, but Lefforge’s doctor had doubled it, so she was given that quantity of medication.
Lefforge was left unmonitored until the next morning when she was found barely breathing due to the medication error. She had suffered from a major overdose of morphine. After being taken to the hospital, it was established that she had suffered a brain injury from the excessive morphine dose.
St. Edna Rehabilitation Center is one of 25 California rehab facilities owned by Covenant Care. Since 2004, they have accepted more than $880 million in additional compensation from the state for increased wages and staffing. According to the non-profit group, “California Watch”, it found that many Covenant Care facilities actually reduced their staff and let nursing ratios go below state standards during this time.
Tragically this is not an isolated case. Nearly one in five dosing orders of all nursing homes and hospitals has medication errors. These odds are unacceptable. In many cases, these patients are there for short stays while rehabilitating, not lifelong residents. It is for this reason that every citizen should have an up-to-date medical directive.
Only about 20% of Americans have a medical directive document; however, explained an Orange County injury attorney, it is one of the most important documents a person can have. The Advanced Health Care Directive is the best way to make known your health care wishes if you are incapacitated and can’t communicate your wishes.
Unfortunately, just telling your wishes to your husband or wife does not automatically ensure that they will be honored. Here in California, the law gives you two options for your directive: you can either appoint another person who can make the decisions for you or you can make your desires known through writing your own advanced directive. Either way, it’s important to meet with a professional lawyer to discuss your legal options.
If you have a loved one in any type of nursing facility, it would be wise to double-check that their medical directive matches the instructions that the staff has. If you have any questions or concerns regarding a nursing home in California, visit www.nursinghomeguide.org/ for a complete listing by city or county of local elder facilities and their violations, staffing policies, and complaints.
James Ballidis is an Orange County injury attorney specializing in injury claims arising from medical malpractice and medication errors, subjects on which he has written extensively. To request a copy of one of his articles or to discuss your rights and options after an accident, feel free to call 866-981-5596.