A 23-year-old woman with a troubled past killed herself by swallowing and choking on a small medicine bottle while in the care of Oregon State Hospital in Portland. An unfortunate series of preventable hospital errors contributed to this young woman’s death.
The woman’s medical history clearly warned that she would swallow small objects, yet a nurse gave her a small bottle. The patient put the bottle in her mouth. Once she started to choke, nurses and other hospital staff lacked the appropriate resources and solid emergency plan, and this hospital negligence contributed to her death.
The young woman had been adopted from an orphanage in Bulgaria when she was 4 years old. Sadly, her adoptive parents were abusive towards her, and she was placed under the supervision of a court-appointed guardian.
The young woman had a clear history of hurting herself and had attempted suicide dozens of times.
A Tragic Series of Mistakes
One evening, however, a nurse handed the woman a small bottle of eye drops. The woman quickly swallowed the bottle, causing her to choke. The nurse immediately realized her mistake, but it was too late. Nurses attempted a Heimlich maneuver. The bottle came back up only to have the woman swallow it again, lodging it in her airway.
The Portland branch of the psychiatric hospital does not always have a doctor on site. They call 9-1-1 for emergencies that their medical staff cannot handle. In this case, the nursing supervisor called 9-1-1 for help for the young woman, but what followed were more preventable mistakes.
The supervisor called from a phone in a back office. As paramedics were on their way, the dispatcher told the supervisor to call back from a phone where she could see the patient. Back in the room with the young patient, the supervisor struggled to operate the hospital’s cordless phone. She then tried the hospital’s cellphone but misdialed. The supervisor finally got back in-touch with the dispatcher by using a staff member’s cellphone.
At the nurses’ request, the supervisor also attempted to provide a crash cart with a mask and oxygen for the patient. The oxygen tank, however, was empty. Then, when the paramedics arrived, they ended up waiting outside the wrong entrance to the building. It took several minutes for staff members to locate the paramedics and bring them to the patient who was now unconscious.
The young patient died that night. In light of the tragedy, the hospital is working to make changes and provide its staff with more training so that nothing like this occurs again.
If you or a love one has been injured due to medical errors, hospital negligence or other forms of medical malpractice you have a right to pursue compensation for your injuries and suffering. People trust medical professionals to provide the best care possible, and those hurt by medical mistakes usually want to make sure others will not experience similar harms. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can advise you of potential claims and advocate on your behalf.