Family Considers Filing North Carolina Wrongful Death Lawsuit After Mental Patient Suffers Fatal Overdose

November 25, 2009, by Michael A. DeMayo

The family of Jefferey Scott Swaim is considering filing a North Carolina wrongful death lawsuit against Cherry Hospital. Swaim, 40, was found unconscious on a Greyhound bus two hours after he was discharged from the mental hospital.

According to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Chapel Hill, Swaim died on July 16 from acute Fentanyl poisoning. Autopsy results show that the amount of Fentanyl he had in his blood was two times more than what is considered toxic. Goldsboro hospital had prescribed the pain patch to Swaim. Fentanyl, the medication’s active ingredient, has been linked to hundreds of overdose deaths in the US.

Swain’s death is the 11th “questionable” fatality linked to the mental hospital since 2003. In 2008, Cherry’s Medicare and Medicaid certification was revoked after patient Steven H. Sabock choked on his meds, struck his head, and than sat in a chair for almost a day without being medically treated, fed, or given anything to drink.

Swaim began his stay at the state mental hospital on July 3. He wanted the hospital to treat his suicidal thoughts and alcohol abuse. He suffered from acute pancreatitis and uncontrollable mood swings. When the hospital discharged him, they gave him two Fentanyl patches.

When his mother went to the bus station to pick him up, she found him slumped in a bus seat. He wasn’t breathing. Doctors discovered one of the pain patches in his mouth.

Medical Malpractice
A medical provider can be held liable for North Carolina medical malpractice if a patient is given the wrong drug or the wrong dose of a drug. The drug manufacturer can also be held liable if it is considered a dangerous drug that unnecessarily causes injury or death. Just last year, a Florida jury awarded one family $13.3 million because her mother died from a Fentanyl overdose. The defendant in that dangerous drug case was Johnson & Johnson, which manufacturers the Duragesic fentanyl pain patch. Fentanyl is also available under a number of generic labels.

Overdose killed mental patient, News & Observer, November 24, 2009

Fentanyl Pain Patch Wrongful Death Lawsuit Results in $13.3 Million Verdict, About Lawsuits, October 30, 2008

Related Web Resources:

Cherry Hospital


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