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Vandy patient dies after nurse gives lethal dose of wrong drug; puts Medicare at risk

Posted: 2:56 PM, Nov 29, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-29 20:56:50Z

A patient died after a Vanderbilt University Medical Center nurse gave him the wrong medication.

In fact, the paralyzing anesthetic that was given to the patient is one of the drugs used in a lethal injection execution.

The incident happened in December of 2017. According to a report conducted by the Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, the patient checked into the hospital with a subdural hematoma and vision loss.

The patient was sent to the hospital’s radiology department for a full body scan. The patient said they were claustrophobic and expressed concern about the scan. The help put the patient at ease, the doctor prescribed the patient a small dose of Versed, which is a standard anti-anxiety sedative. 

The patient instead received a dose of vecuronium, a neuromuscular blocking medication that causes paralysis, ultimately killing the patient.

The error has put the hospital's Medicare reimbursement status in jeopardy.

Vanderbilt University released the following statement:

“VUMC was notified of an adverse finding by the Tennessee Department of Health after an on-site survey involving a patient who died in December 2017 following a medication error. In reviewing the event at the time it happened, we identified that the error occurred because a staff member had bypassed multiple safety mechanisms that were in place to prevent such errors. We disclosed the error to the patient’s family as soon as we confirmed that an error had occurred, and immediately took necessary corrective actions (including appropriate personnel actions). We will continue to work closely with representatives of Tennessee Department of Health and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to assure that any remaining concerns are fully resolved within the specified time frame,” said John Howser, Chief Communications Officer, VUMC.

Vanderbilt University created a corrective plan, which CMS has accepted. VUMC said they will continue to work with State Survey Agency and VUMC to take corrective steps to protect the health and welfare of patients served by the facility.