TALES FROM OUR FILES
My legal practice is concentrated on assisting victims of nursing home negligence and medical malpractice throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Over my twenty-five-year career, I believe I’ve seen nearly every conceivable fact pattern concerning neglect and abuse at these facilities. It recently occurred to me that providing examples of the problems that my clients have encountered over the years might serve a useful purpose in helping others to avoid common lapses in nursing home care.
Recently we represented a woman I’ll call “Sandy.” She was a 56-year-old, disabled woman with a long history of mental illness. Historically, she suffered from anxiety and depression. For this reason, she had long been under a psychiatrist’s care. Sandy first came under the defendant facility’s care in 2007. In conjunction with her treatment for her mental disorders, her doctor prescribed 400 milligrams of a powerful drug called Lamictal, (200 milligrams to be taken in the morning and 200 milligrams to be taken in the evening). This dosage was confirmed by a nurse who worked for the defendant’s facility. In July 2007, however, the defendant nurse erroneously noted that the patient was taking two (2) 200-milligram doses of Lamictal in both the morning and the evening, (erroneously creating the impression that the prescribed daily dosage of Lamictal should be 800 milligrams). This was exactly twice the dosage that was originally prescribed for the plaintiff.
Over the course of the next ten months, Sandy continued to ingest a dangerously high dosage of Lamictal on a daily basis. Her symptoms included occasional dizziness, lethargy, forgetfulness, heightened anxiety, confusion, and general malaise. On several occasions, Sandy expressed these symptoms to the defendant nurse and questioned whether it was possible that her medications were making her feel this way. She was reassured that both her medication and the respective dosages were correct.
Upset that her complaints were not seemingly taken seriously, Sandy’s family sought legal counsel. It was then that it came to light that she had in fact been overmedicated. When a subsequent doctor reduced her prescription of Lamictal, all of her symptoms began to dissipate and soon disappeared altogether.
We hired a medical expert who was prepared to testify that the very upper limit of a Lamictal dosage is 500 mg per day. As such, he deemed that the defendant’s facility breached the standard of care in treating Sandy. As a result, the case settled prior to trial.
Circumstances, when patients are either over-medicated or given the incorrect medication, occur much more often than you might imagine. Family members should always check to ensure that their loved one is receiving the proper medication and the proper dosage. As always, vigilance is the key to safeguarding your loved ones.