A licensed practical nurse (LPN) who worked in a Topeka, Kansas nursing home was supposed to administer morphine to a 105-year-old nursing home resident who had dementia and was in severe chronic pain but instead the LPN diluted the patient’s vial of morphine with water. The incident happened in November, 2010, resulting in the patient receiving less than the prescribed amount of the narcotic pain medication that was intended to relieve her pain.
The LPN was addicted to the narcotic painkiller Hydrocodone and frequently ingested the morphine that was prescribed for her patients. Her criminal activities were discovered when the nursing home’s nursing director was advised about the discovery of two empty bottles of morphine sulfate. The nursing director ordered all staff who had access to the narcotic drugs to be drug tested. The LPN failed her oral swab drug tests but passed two subsequent urine drug tests by convincing a co-worker to provide her with the co-worker’s urine that the LPN submitted as her own.
The LPN was charged with one criminal count of tampering with a consumer product and one criminal count of adulterating a prescription drug. The 37-year-old LPN pleaded guilty in November, 2011. She was given a three-year prison sentence on February 3, 2012. As part of her plea agreement, the LPN may be entitled to early release if she successfully completes a residential drug treatment program. Even though state records indicate that the LPN still holds a valid license as a practical nurse, her plea agreement forbids her from ever working in health care in the future.
What makes this case even more disgusting and tragic is that the LPN had a history of drug abuse at the time she was hired by the nursing home in June, 2010. In April, 2010, the LPN was caught stealing Hydrocodone from another nursing home and pleaded guilty to stealing Hydrocodone in August, 2010. The LPN was placed on a form of probation known as diversion, which could have resulted in her conviction being erased if she successfully completed her probation.
Pain management drugs such as narcotics are essential in treating severe chronic pain in the elderly (and others) who are in intractable pain that cannot be controlled with other pain management techniques or medications. People who are responsible for administering the prescribed narcotic pain medications in the proper amounts and at the appropriate times as ordered by the prescribing physicians must carry out their duties timely and properly. Diverting any of the pain medication for personal use or providing them to others who illegally sell the drugs on the street should be punished swiftly and severely. There is no excuse for what the LPN did in both nursing homes in Kansas and she should consider herself fortunate that she was not subjected to a much longer prison sentence without the possibility of early release.
If you or a loved one were mistreated in a nursing home or other medical facility, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. The prompt advice from a medical malpractice attorney in your area may help you decide if you should bring a medical malpractice claim for the injuries and losses suffered at the hands of abusive or negligent caregivers.
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