Last week, an Alabama jury awarded $20 million in punitive damages to the family of a woman who died from an opiate allergy. Doris Green, 79, died in July 2011, after suffering an acute allergic reaction to opiates allegedly given to her by HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Gadsden.

Green’s daughter, Regina Honts, brought the medical malpractice lawsuit against the HealthSouth hospital in 2013. Despite winning the suit, attorneys say that it could take up to two years before Honts sees any payment of the $20 million settlement, the largest ever awarded in Etowah County, Alabama.

Hospital Gives Patient Opiates Despite Allergy Warning

Green was admitted to HealthSouth hospital June 23, 2011 for 2 weeks of rehabilitation, after which she was to return home. Hont’s attorneys say that the hospital’s staff were warned multiple times that Green was not to receive opiates because she was allergic to them.

On July 5, Green was found unresponsive in her hospital room and, despite being rushed to the emergency room, she eventually fell into a coma. The emergency room staff performed two separate urinalyses which found evidence of opiates in her system.

Overdose Remedy Used As Evidence In Malpractice Lawsuit

Hont believes that HealthSouth hospital administered the opiates to her mother, despite warnings of Green’s allergy. She cites the emergency room urine tests as proof – as well as her mother’s favorable response to being given Narcan.

Narcan is a drug that can completely or partially reverse the effects of a narcotics overdose. It works by blocking opiate receptors, thus nullifying the deadly effects of an overdose of opiates. Hont’s attorneys said that Narcan’s positive impact on Green’s condition at the emergency room was a key piece of “proof” in their malpractice lawsuit. If Green had no opiates in her system, they say, the Narcan would not have worked.

Green suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the allergic reaction and died October 22, 2011.

Over 440,000 Americans Die Yearly From Hospital Errors

The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit which tracks medical errors quarterly by city, state, and hospital for its Hospital Safety Score, says that 440,000 Americans die every year from medical errors. When comparing that number with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s top killers, medical error is the third-largest cause of death in America.

 

If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, you could be entitled to compensation for medical costs, lost wages, damages, and more. Contact our legal team to learn more.