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Massachusetts General Hospital sued over fatal drug overdose

The family of a 76-year-old woman is suing doctors and nurses at Massachusetts General Hospital for administering a fatal overdose of a blood thinner to the woman. Family members allege that the woman died after a nurse administered a dose of the blood thinner Lepirudin that was 30 times too high.

The woman was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital last November when she developed a minor urinary tract infection after injuring her shoulder. A nurse gave the woman the blood thinner to prevent the formation of blood clots but the nurse miscalculated the dose, The Boston Globe reports.

The family alleges that no doctors provided oversight, which resulted in the woman's preventable death. The Board of Nursing launched an investigation into the role of nursing in the woman's death, but state officials told the Boston Globe that none of the doctors or nurses named in the lawsuits has a history of complaints or discipline.

A hospital spokeswoman said that the hospital regrets the error and that it was enacting new guidelines for the administration of the blood thinner.

"As a result of this event, we have made some specific changes to our practices to reduce the chance of such an event from occurring again," the spokeswoman said.

The family is suing Massachusetts General Hospital, five doctors, and two nurses for the woman's wrongful death. The woman's death certificate said that she hemorrhaged for at least 12 hours at the hospital before dying.

"My mother didn't have to die,'' her daughter said, "She could have gotten better. It was this drug they overdosed her with that took her life."

Source: Boston Globe, "MGH faces suit over drug error that killed woman," Milton Valencia, 3/10/11

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