Nurse’s patient and family education is under question in lawsuit

Effective patient and family education is essential in helping the patient recover, maintain health and avoid potential risks if instructions are not followed.

In the following caseMason v. Amed-Health Inc. — not providing adequate patient and family education resulted in serious injury and property damage.

The patient, a smoker, had myriad health problems, including PTSD, and recently was hospitalized for pneumonia and congestive heart failure. He was on numerous medications, including Narco, various antidepressants and oxygen at the time.

His physician decided rather than continue hospitalization, the patient could be released to receive hospice care at home.

The patient lived with a male friend, and a female and her two young children. Amed and its medical director, Folasade Ojo, M.D., initiated hospice care.

Ojo ordered continued oxygen and provided a “comfort kit” of medications, including morphine, hydrocodone and sleep aides to let the patient “die in peace.”

A hospice nurse visited the patient in his friend’s home and did an assessment, noting the patient was alert, oriented and able to take his medications.

The nurse specifically told the patient both verbally and in writing about the dangers of smoking while using oxygen.

In addition, warnings were placed on his bedroom wall, the oxygen canisters and the oxygen concentrator near the patient’s bed.

The patient’s friend was aware of the dangers of smoking around oxygen and asked the patient to smoke outside the house. He asked the hospice nurse if the patient should be smoking due to the oxygen and the medications he was taking.

According to the friend, the nurse essentially told him to let the patient do what he wanted since he was going to die soon.

Patient does not follow instructions

While the friend was in the shower, the patient decided to smoke a cigar. It was cold outside so the patient decided to smoke the cigar in the house.

He later stated he knew “oxygen and smoking do not mix,” but thought he had turned the oxygen off before he lit the cigar. He later acknowledged that because of the medications he was taking, he may not have done so.

A fire broke out in the house. The patient, the patient’s friend, the female friend and children were able to escape the fire, but the patient and his friend were burned, requiring treatment at a hospital and burn center.

The friend’s home was completely destroyed along with the personal property in and around the home.

The patient and the patient’s friend (and his family) sued Amed-Health and the physician, alleging negligence and gross negligence arising from the fire.

The trial court granted Amed Health and Ojo a Summary Judgment in their favor and dismissed the lawsuit.

The two plaintiffs filed an appeal.

Appellate court decision

After a careful and lengthy analysis of the law and case law governing medical negligence, the appellate court held there were material issues of fact that required a reversal of the trial court’s decision and sending the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.

Of interest in this blog is the role of the hospice nurses’ …read more

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