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    Nurse replaced fentanyl drip with water, wrongful death lawsuit alleges

    By CBS/AP,

    2024-02-29

    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0bAGcd_0rbHgJRd00

    The first lawsuit brought amid reports that a nurse at a southern Oregon hospital replaced intravenous fentanyl drips with tap water seeks up to $11.5 million on behalf of the estate of a 65-year-old man who died.

    The wrongful death suit was filed Monday against Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford, CBS affiliate KOIN-TV reported . It also names nurse Dani Marie Schofield as a defendant.

    Last month, Medford police disclosed that they were investigating potential crimes against patients involving the theft of "controlled substances," which may have led to "adverse" outcomes for some.

    Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that has helped fuel the nation's overdose epidemic, but it is also used in legitimate medical settings to relieve severe pain. Drug theft from hospitals is a longstanding problem.

    Police declined to provide more information. Schofield agreed to a voluntary nursing license suspension last November "pending the completion of an investigation," according to Oregon Board of Nursing records. No charges have been filed.

    Justin Idiart, a southern Oregon lawyer, told The Oregonian/OregonLive that he represents nine clients whose medication was swapped out, and five others have reached out for possible representation. They include the loved ones of patients who died as well as some who survived. All of his clients were treated by Schofield, he said.

    Other local law firms also have been exploring litigation. Attorneys say they expect as many as three dozen cases could be filed.

    The hospital did not immediately return an email from The Associated Press seeking comment Tuesday. The AP could not immediately locate contact information for Schofield, and it was not clear if Schofield is represented by an attorney.

    "We were distressed to learn of this issue," Asante said in a statement last month. "We reported it to law enforcement and are working closely with them."

    Idiart filed the lawsuit in Jackson County Circuit Court over the death of Horace E. Wilson, who died in February 2022. Wilson, the founder of a cannabis company called Decibel Farms in Jacksonville, Oregon, was treated at the hospital after he fell off a ladder. He suffered bleeding from his spleen and had it removed.

    But doctors then noted "unexplained high fevers, very high white blood cell counts, and a precipitous decline," the complaint said.

    The medical center ordered Schofield to administer fentanyl to the patient starting on Jan. 29, KOIN-TV reported, citing court documents. Plaintiffs are alleging the nurse replaced the fentanyl with non-sterile tap water, bringing more bacteria into his bloodstream.

    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3UsJm7_0rbHgJRd00
    Syringes of the opioid painkiller fentanyl are shown in an inpatient pharmacy on June 1, 2018, in Salt Lake City. Rick Bowmer / AP

    Tests confirmed an infection of treatment-resistant bacteria, Staphylococcus epidermidis. Wilson progressed to multi-system organ failure and died weeks later.

    Court documents said the hospital reported three central-line associated bloodstream infections in 2021, which surged to 15 cases in 2022, KOIN reported. Plaintiffs also allege Asante admitted the infections were linked to bacteria in April 2023, KOIN reported, but the company didn't report water contamination at any of its medical centers.

    Idiart said patients who were deprived of medication suffered as a result of the medication diversion. In Wilson's case, his family believed he was in pain even though he was supposed to be sedated, Idiart said.

    Asante last December contacted Medford police regarding a former employee "that they believe was involved in the theft of fentanyl prescribed to patients resulting in some adverse patient outcomes," the complaint said.

    That month, hospital representatives "began contacting patients and their relatives telling them a nurse had replaced fentanyl with tap water causing bacterial infections," it said.

    "We continue to request the public's patience as we strive to understand the full implications of these allegations and their effects on those involved," Medford Police said in a statement, KOIN reported.

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