Medication Reconciliation: $1M Verdict for Postsurgery Death Caused by Drug; Patient Partially Liable

August 16, 2017 | Risk Management News

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​A Florida jury awarded nearly $1 million to the estate of a patient who died as a result of a preventable adverse drug complication after undergoing reconstructive foot surgery. The plaintiff proved that neither the patient's surgeon nor the surgical team was aware of a warning provided by an internal medicine specialist in his clearance report about the hazards of a medication that had been prescribed for the patient. The plaintiff alleged that the patient's surgeon ordered a presurgical “clearance" examination by an internal medicine specialist. The internist prepared a 15-page report based on his examination, alerting the surgeon to the fact that the patient was taking Evista (raloxifene), an estrogen modulator to help prevent osteoporosis. The internist stated in his report that the drug carries a “black box" warning that long periods of immobilization can increase the risk of blood clots and pulmonary embolism in patients taking the medication.

At trial, the plaintiff claimed that the surgeon and the surgical team failed to read and act on the internist's report and warning, and that consequently the patient was instructed to resume taking the drug immediately after her discharge from the hospital. The patient's husband testified that his wife followed those instructions and took the drug during her six-week postsurgery recovery, during which she moved very little. A cardiothoracic surgeon opined that because the patient took the drug over a period of time when she was immobile, clots began to form in her lower extremities. The clots traveled to the patient's lungs and heart, resulting in the development of a large “saddle" pulmonary embolus that obstructed both...

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