NASHVILLE, Tennessee — A Tennessee mother says her young son accidentally overdosed after he was over-prescribed an opioid pain medication.
Shelley Slater expected her son would be given medicine at the hospital. She never anticipated her then seven-year-old son would overdose.
“I was so scared I was numb,” Slater said, recalling the episode from 2012.
Slater’s son, Ethan, went to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt for a tonsillectomy. When he had an allergic reaction to hydrocodone, doctors wrote him another prescription.
Slater said she’ll never forget when she handed the script to a pharmacist at Walgreens.
“She told me that it was somewhat uncommon to have this even in stock — because typically it is a medication that was reserved for a hospice-type treatment,” Slater said.
The prescription was for liquid oxycodone. The WMSV I-Team obtained a copy of the script, which displays a warning. The message states the dose prescribed to Ethan—300 mg/day—exceeded the higher range of recommended dosage by nearly 3.5 times.
The recommended range on Ethan’s script fell between 2.655 mg/day and 84.96 mg/day.
Slater was instructed to administer 50mg to Ethan every four hours. She said by the time Ethan took his second dose, something had gone terribly wrong.
Ethan was again rushed to Vanderbilt. What happened next is detailed in her lawsuit against the hospital and Walgreens.
Documents state Ethan was suffering from respiratory depression and cardiac arrest. Slater said her son had to be treated with Narcan, a drug that addicts are sometimes given, to reverse the overdose.
Ethan regained consciousness the next day.
“It is not a feeling I wish upon anyone. It’s devastating, and I was fortunate I was able to have my child back,” Slater said.
“Why in this world wasn’t this prescription checked?” asked Ed Gross, an attorney representing Slater. “Why wasn’t something done?”
For this specific drug, the manufacturer issued a warning stating errors in dosing could result in overdose or even death.
Sheila McMorrow is a doctor who specializes in pediatric emergency medicine at TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville. She said warnings that monitor dosages are to be heeded.
“It’s very important,” McMorrow said. “I think anyone can make a quick mistake if they’re putting something in the computer and that’s what the safeguards are kind of built for.”
Slater said over time, she noticed changes in Ethan. She claims Ethan now suffers from fatty liver disease, gastrointestinal problems and assorted behavioral issues.
In court filings, attorneys for Vanderbilt denied their acts caused Ethan’s problems, even though they acknowledge, “Ethan Slater apparently suffered some short-term consequences of having received too much oxycodone.”
Walgreens also rebuked the allegations, denying they filled a “prescription of a lethal dose,” and were negligent in providing reasonable medical care. But Slater said she plans to continue fighting for her son.
“I just want him to be happy and healthy and we’re doing everything we can every day to do that,” she said.
Attorneys for Vanderbilt and Walgreens declined to comment on this story, citing ongoing legal matters.
Gross said he believes a mediation is scheduled for November.
They are asking for $750,000 from each defendant.