Chicago area hospital sued, accused of failing to recognize patient's painkiller addiction

A patient's family is suing Geneva, Ill.-based Delnor Hospital and the patient's physician for allegedly failing to follow protocols that aim to recognize patients at risk of becoming addicted to pain medications, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Linda Svanstrom died in February 2017 due to a toxic mix of prescription painkillers, according to an autopsy cited by the Tribune. After her mother's death, Ms. Svanstrom's daughter, Nina Koehler, sued the hospital and her mother's physician, Zbigniew Ciechanowski, MD.

The lawsuit, which was filed the week of May 6, alleges Dr. Ciechanowski and other Delnor Hospital physicians did not identify the signs of Ms. Svanstrom's drug addiction that were evident in hospital records. It also alleges Dr. Ciechanowski repeatedly prescribed drugs to Ms. Svanstrom without recording the prescriptions in a state-mandated database. The database allows physicians to determine how frequently and how much medication has been given to a specific patient.

Additionally, the suit claims Dr. Ciechanowski should have recognized Ms. Svanstrom was abusing the medications he prescribed. Ms. Svanstrom called Dr. Ciechanowski for medication about 100 times in the seven months he treated her before her death, the suit claims.

Ms. Koehler told the Tribune she did not learn about Dr. Ciechanowski until after her mother died, when she saw his name on her mother's numerous prescriptions. Ms. Koehler said she thinks her mother's death could have been avoided if the physicians and hospital staff monitored how often she was receiving the drugs and had entered them into the database to alert other healthcare providers of the amount of painkillers she received.

"I don't want this to happen to other people," Ms. Koehler said. "My mother isn't what anyone would picture as an addict. I feel like it could happen to anyone."

A spokesperson for Chicago-based Northwestern Medicine, which includes Delnor Hospital, told the Tribune the medical group does not comment on pending litigation. Dr. Ciechanowski could not be reached for comment.

More articles on opioids: 
Viewpoint: Why understanding pain is crucial to fighting opioid abuse
Florida hospital slashes painkiller use by 36% after revamped emergency protocol
FDA to hold patient-focused public meeting on chronic pain

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