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Medical Professionals Reference (MPR)Physician Found Liable for Patient Death After Failing to Ask Crucial Question

The High Cost of Incomplete Patient History: A Case Study

A recent case has highlighted the importance of comprehensive patient communication and monitoring in healthcare, particularly when prescribing potent medications like opioids. The case involved a physician who was found liable for a patient’s death due to incomplete patient history taking and inadequate monitoring.

HCN Medical Memo
This case reaffirms the critical importance of thorough patient history taking and appropriate monitoring when prescribing potent medications. It serves as a reminder to healthcare professionals about the potential risks associated with opioid prescription, particularly in patients with conditions like sleep apnea that may not be immediately apparent. This case could prompt a paradigm shift in how patient histories are taken and how patients are monitored, particularly when potent medications are prescribed.

Key Points

  • The patient, Mr. P, 54, was suffering from pancreatitis and was prescribed hydromorphone for severe pain.
  • The physician, Dr. D, did not ask Mr. P about his history of obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Mr. P received 27 milligrams of hydromorphone over a span of 28 hours.
  • Mr. P was found unresponsive with no pulse and sustained irreversible brain damage.
  • The jury found Dr. D liable and awarded Mr. P’s family more than $20 million in damages.

“To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.” – Nicolaus Copernicus

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