Two recent interesting settlements at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), both involving technology

Two recent interesting settlements at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), both involving technology.

The first case involved a medication error (from a 'miscommunication between doctors and nurses', an infusion pump snafu, and failure to perform obvious follow up labs;  if health IT was involved it would not surprise me).  The second case involved alarm fatigue.

These amounts are interesting considering the age and condition of the patients.


Medication Error Lawsuit against MGH Settles for $1.25 Million

The plaintiff’s decedent was a 76-year-old woman who died on 11/24/10 from a hemorrhage. Her death occurred following a preventable medication error involving the drug Lepirudin. The patient was given over 30 times too much medication which resulted in uncontrollable internal bleeding and her subsequent death.

Her past medical history included cirrhosis with well preserved hepatocellular synthetic function. She also had Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia, and a history of splenectomy for treatment of severe thrombocytopenia.



Mass. General Hospital 'alarm fatigue' lawsuit settled for $850,000

BOSTON (AP) — The family of an 89-year-old man who died at Massachusetts General Hospital when nurses did not respond to alarms on his cardiac monitor has settled its case against the hospital for $850,000.

I see potential lessons for at least two healthcare stakeholders in these cases:

Hospital executives:  bad technology is not your friend.  get it right before rolling it out, with robust, validated safeguards, to save lives - and to save your organizations from costly litigation and reputational damage.

Clinicians:  bad technology is your enemy.  While hyper-vigilance is mentally exhausting, that's what's required to avoid the fate of the patients - and the clinicians - in the above cases.

Reporting bad technology and making sure the problems are remediated promptly, not glossed over, is equally essential.

Note: my interpretation is that both technology and people issues probably played a role in both these accidents, based on my own knowledge and experience, but that is of course a personal opinion. 

-- SS