An apparent medication error at a Bartlesville, Oklahoma group home for the developmentally disabled sent 10 people to the hospital after they received insulin injections instead of flu shots.
Bartlesville Police Chief Tracy Roles told Tulsa ABC station KTUL that EMS and fire crews found multiple unresponsive people when they arrived at Jacquelyn House in Bartlesville in early November.
Eight of the patients affected by the medical mishap were residents of Jacquelyn House and two were employees, according to USA Today. Several remained hospitalized the following day.
The insulin shots were administered by a licensed pharmacist who has been in practice for 40 years and who was contracted by the group home to provide flu vaccines, according to CBS’ KOTV in Tulsa reports. The pharmacist is cooperating with police and state officials, and investigators believe it was an accident.
Jacquelyn House is an eight-resident facility that serves intellectually and developmentally disabled people and is owned by AbilityWorks of Oklahoma Inc. in Bartlesville, according to WCGL.
What Does an Unneeded Insulin Shot Do?
According to the Healthline website, basal insulin is the insulin that keeps the body’s blood sugar (glucose) steady all day. Glucose fuels the body. Diabetics’ bodies produce too much glucose, so they may need insulin shots to control blood sugar. Insulin signals the body to store excess glucose in the liver, where it can be released when blood glucose levels decrease.
Excess insulin in the bloodstream causes the body’s cells to absorb too much glucose from the blood. It also causes the liver to release less glucose. These two effects create dangerously low glucose levels in the blood, a condition known as hypoglycemia.
Mild hypoglycemia can be countered by eating about 15 grams of a fast-digesting carbohydrate, such as glucose tablets or a high-sugar food. Severe hypoglycemia is a medical emergency.
Severe hypoglycemia, sometimes referred to as diabetic shock or insulin shock, can cause:
- Concentration problems
- Unconsciousness / coma
Treatment for an insulin overdose often involves administering an intravenous (IV) dextrose and electrolyte solution. A doctor will inject the dextrose and electrolyte fluid directly into a vein. The patient also will need monitoring to ensure that he or she does not experience any long-term damage.
Is Giving the Wrong Vaccine Medical Malpractice?
The insulin / flu shot mix-up in Oklahoma could have been deadly. It was certainly costly, considering the emergency medical response and hospitalization of 10 people, as well as the investigation by police and other officials. An accounting of the damage done should include the unnecessary pain and suffering of the home’s residents and two affected employees. All of this was apparently caused by a vaccine administration error resulting in insulin overdoses.
If residents and employees of a group home are given insulin instead of a flu shot, is it a legally actionable medical error?
Not every mistake by a health care provider amounts to malpractice. Medical malpractice is said to have occurred if a health care provider such as a doctor, nurse or pharmacist, has failed to follow the recognized standard of care in a particular situation and this failure causes an avoidable injury. While we typically think of malpractice occurring in a hospital or doctor’s office, malpractice can occur during in-home visits, which describes the pharmacist’s visit to Jacquelyn House.
A successful medical malpractice lawsuit would have to demonstrate that a patient was harmed as a result of a health provider’s careless act. The court would instruct the jury to decide from the evidence what a care provider should or should not have done based on the applicable recognized standard of care.
The medical error in a malpractice case must have caused an injury that is compensable. It must be an injury that can be made better with a monetary payment.
If the medical malpractice attorneys at Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons were contacted about a case like this one, we would want to find out quickly that all medical bills incurred by residents and employees of Jacquelyn House because of this incident had been paid by AbilityWorks of Oklahoma or the contract pharmacist (through their respective insurers).
The two employees may be eligible to recover compensation either through a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury lawsuit. The Jacquelyn House employees may have a potential claim against the pharmacist’s medical malpractice insurance.
Under Oklahoma law, a plaintiff might still seek compensation for:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental pain and anguish.
Such a claim might move forward informally, with an attorney acting as an advocate for an injured resident or employee to negotiate an appropriate settlement that acknowledges the unnecessary pain and suffering the person endured.
Is a Faulty Flu Shot Compensable?
In some situations, even the proper administration of a flu vaccine can cause an adverse reaction that includes physical harm. Vaccines, like any medicine, can cause side effects, which can sometimes be serious, such as a severe allergic reaction.
For such cases, the federal government has established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, a no-fault insurance program. Any individual who received a covered vaccine, including seasonal flu shots, and believes he or she was injured as a result, can file a petition for compensation. Parents, legal guardians and legal representatives can file on behalf of children, disabled adults or individuals who are deceased.
A claim through this program is filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. If the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services medical staff decides the claim has merit, a court-appointed special master decides whether the petitioner should be compensated, often after a hearing in which both parties can present evidence. If compensation is awarded, the special master determines the amount and type of compensation.
An adverse decision by the special master may be appealed, and petitioners may file a claim in civil court against the vaccine company and/or the health care provider who administered the vaccine.
Contact an Oklahoma Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If you think that you or a family member has been injured by the negligence of a health care provider, Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons may be able to help. Our experienced and compassionate medical malpractice lawyers will review your case and explain the options available to you. Our firm has the resources needed to pursue legal claims and to pursue compensation for our clients through pointed and aggressive negotiations or in a court case.
We have a track record of positive results for accident victims in Oklahoma. Contact us online or call us at 405.528.4567 to schedule your free consultation. Se Habla Español.