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Medication Errors at VA Hospitals

Medication errors are a serious problem at medical facilities across the United States, and VA hospitals are no exception.

Consider the case of a veteran who died at a VA hospital less than a week after retiring from the Army.

On the day of the death, a VA doctor admitted to the veteran's wife that a medication error had occurred.

The veteran had gone to the VA hospital to be treated for what he thought was a bad case of the flu. However, doctors discovered other complications, including a perforation in the veteran's bowel, and he was admitted to the hospital to be treated for an infection.

The next day, the veteran's wife returned to the hospital to learn that her husband had been rushed to intensive care after a nurse discovered that he had stopped breathing.

A medical team tried to save his life but were unsuccessful. On that same day, a doctor disclosed a mistake in the veteran's care. He had been over-medicated with the powerful narcotic Dilaudid -- not just once, but twice.

Instead of what the veteran had been prescribed -- 1 mg every four hours -- he had been given 4 mgs two separate times.

Even after admitting that a medication error had occurred, the doctor later cast doubt on whether the overdoses were linked to the veteran's death, and the VA never admitted to being responsible for the death.

The VA settled a lawsuit with the family outside of court, and the terms of the settlement allowed the VA to avoid admitting to any wrongdoing. Still, the deceased veteran's wife was left to wonder how many other families would have to endure devastation as a result of VA hospital negligence.

For more on VA and military hospital errors and how to hold the responsible parties accountable, please see our previous post, "Steps for a Military Medical Malpractice Claim."

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