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'Wrong drug' death brings lawsuit

MIAMI, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The family of a dialysis patient is suing a Florida hospital it says accidentally gave a fatal dose of a drug that induces paralysis instead of an antacid.

"The hospital killed my dad," said Marc Smith of Miami, whose 79-year-old father went into cardiac arrest after the nurse's mistake at North Shore Medical Center in Miami.

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Richard Smith had been admitted to the hospital's intensive care unit after a dialysis session where he experienced severe shortness of breath. The next day, July 30, 2010, he complained of an upset stomach, so the doctor prescribed the antacid.

By mistake, Smith was given pancuronium, which is typically used during intubations, acts as a muscle relaxant and paralytic, ABCNews.com reported Monday.

Thirty minutes later, Smith was found unresponsive, and although doctors were able to revive him he was brain dead and remained in a vegetative state until he died a month later.

The nurse has been retrained and fined, Miami's WPLG-TV reported.

A report from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration found the nurse "failed to look and read what medication he was taking … failed to scan to determine the right count for the medication, failed to match the patient's ID with the scanned medication."

Marc Smith, an emergency medical technician, said the disciplining of the nurse is little consolation.

"If we administer the wrong medication and someone dies, that's negligence," he said. "That's murder."

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