Plaintiff’ father was a nursing home resident who had a history of renal insufficiency and had recently suffered from dehydration and elevated potassium levels. When he entered the nursing home he was alert, talkative, oriented, quick to comprehend and readily answered questions, but he remained at high risk for dehydration and elevated potassium. Shortly after his arrival he had a lab study done that showed his potassium elevated at 5.9. After reviewing his records, but without examining him, the nursing home physician made the determination that he suffered from a urinary tract infection and ordered Septra for 10 days. Eight days later, a new lab report showed that the resident did not have a urinary tract infection, yet the doctor ordered that the Septra be continued. Again, the physician did not examine the resident before making these orders.
Over the course of several days, the resident complained of stomach pain, his hands began to shake, suffer from back spasms and was unable to walk or stand up straight. The nursing home choose not to call his physician despite his deteriorating condition. He became so shaky that he could not hold a glass of water without spilling it.
When his children came to visit, they found him in view of the nursing staff hunched over and unable to speak or move. At the family’s insistence he was taken to a hospital where he was determined to have a potassium level of 10.0 which is critically high. He died the following day of hyperkalemia which simply means that his potassium level was so high that it killed him.
In our lawsuit we determined that he doctor prescribed medication that was not only unnecessary (because he didn’t have a urinary tract infection) but dangerous because it prohibited his body from expelling potassium. In short, the doctor did not review the combination of medications to see if they worked against each other and the nursing home completely failed in their response to his deteriorating physical condition.
After several depositions, the case was settled at mediation for a confidential amount.