The opioid epidemic ravages hundreds of thousands of lives across the United States every year, and despite growing public awareness of the damage these types of drugs can cause, it shows no signs of slowing down.
A recent malpractice case in Georgia is a tragic example of the danger these drugs can cause to innocent lives. Lorrie McCombs was prescribed methadone, hydrocodone, and oxycodone, after undergoing surgery for broken bones and internal injuries caused by a head-on collision in May 2012. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that these three prescription painkillers are known to increase the risk of respiratory failure in patients. According to her husband’s attorney, Michael Perez, the physicians at WellStar Kennestone Hospital were not monitoring her for signs of respiratory depression.
“It was basically broken bones,” Perez said of the injuries McCombs suffered from the crash. “She had some rib fractures and a pretty bad ankle fracture. They patched all that up, and she was only in ICU that first day. All the expectations were that she was going to recover, start doing physical therapy and be fine.”
According to court documents, McCombs was seen by a respiratory therapist after two days at the hospital who noted that she had difficulty staying awake and appeared “lethargic.” While those signs were reportedly communicated to McCombs’ nurse, there was no indication that anything was done in response. McCombs went into full respiratory and cardiac arrest less than two hours later and was found by her sister.
The very next day, McCombs’ nurses failed to check on her for several hours, again, and she slipped into respiratory failure. Even though she was resuscitated, she suffered a brain injury as a result of the negligence of the hospital and its doctors. Sadly, she died on August 17, 2012, three months to the day after her accident.
McCombs’ husband, Dennis McCombs, filed a wrongful death claim alleging that WellStar Kennestone Hospital and the doctors in charge of his wife’s care should have known about the risk of respiratory failure that comes with using these types of prescription painkillers and that their negligent actions resulted in her eventual death. The jury agreed, awarding Mr. McCombs more than $3.2 million in damages.
According to the CDC, the number of people who died from overdoses caused by prescription opioids like methadone, hydrocodone, and oxycodone more than quadrupled since 1999. Because hospitals and doctors overprescribe prescription painkillers to their patients, this epidemic claims an estimated 91 people every single day.
Our Miami medical malpractice attorneys at Freidin Brown, P.A. work tirelessly to provide our clients with the highest caliber of legal representation to secure them the legal outcome they deserve and hold those responsible accountable for their actions. With more than 100 years of collective experience, you can rest assured that your case is in good hands when you choose to work with us. Call us at 888-650-0918 to explain your situation to a member of our firm today, or tell us all about your case by filling out our online form.