Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Teenage Cancer Patient Dies After Mistaken Injection Into the Spine

Posted by Charles Gilman | Aug 08, 2016 | 0 Comments

Many people get nervous when it comes to needles. Unfortunately for them, it may be a necessary part of health care. Flu shots, vaccines, and Novocaine are often delivered as an injection under the skin, with few alternatives. A skilled doctor can help to mitigate the effects of a painful shot through experience and the proper bedside manner. However, when a doctor delivers a shot into the wrong part of the body, the results can be tragic.

Wayne Jowett was diagnosed with leukemia, receiving treatment at the Queen's Medical Center in Nottingham. His cancer was apparently in remission and his family expected a positive prognosis. They were surprised when he suddenly fell ill and died the following day. Jowett was supposed to receive an intravenous injection; however, he had been mistakenly injected directly into his spine, leading to his death.

Vincristine is a chemotherapy drug that is used to treat a variety of cancers, including leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, neuroblastoma, and small cell lung cancer. It is a powerful drug that is to be administered under close medical supervision. If the drug leaks, the surrounding tissue can be seriously damaged. Vincristine is for intravenous (IV) use only, and is labeled as such.

According to the hospital's normal protocol, the chemotherapy agents vincristine and cytosine are to be administered on consecutive days to prevent errors of administration. Cytosine is to be administered to the spine, and vincristine is to be administered intravenously. Despite this, the pharmacist sent the two drugs together.

On the day of the deadly mistake, two doctors failed to notice the 18-year-old's prescription chart noting the drug was to be given via IV. Dr. Morton performed a lumbar puncture, while Dr. Mulhem read out the name of the drug. Then, Dr. Morton injected the powerful chemotherapy drug directly into Wayne's spine. A few minutes later, the doctors realized their terrible mistake; however, they were unaware that the error was irreversible, and that the patient would die.

Shortly after the vincristine injection, the teenager suffered leg paralysis, then the creeping paralysis spread throughout his system. His breathing stopped, and he was taken to intensive care. The young patient was intubated and ventilated. However, the damage was already done. The next morning, Wayne Jowett's ventilator was turned off, and he died within minutes.

Improper injection of vincristine into the spine leads to paralysis, ultimately resulting in stopping the heart. Once it is improperly injected, there is no known cure or antidote. Unfortunately, despite the drug's obvious warnings, vincristine-related deaths are more common that they should be. As far back as 2006, a study found at least 55 deaths related to vincristine spinal injections.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a medical mistake made during a surgery, you should talk to an attorney who will fight for you. The Gilman & Bedigian team of experienced attorneys is fully equipped to handle your medical malpractice claim. Our staff includes a physician and attorneys with decades of malpractice litigation experience. We will focus on getting you compensation for your injuries, so you can focus on healing and moving forward with your life.

About the Author

Charles Gilman

As managing partner and co-founder of Gilman & Bedigian, it is my mission to help our clients recover and get their lives back on track. I strongly believe that every person who is injured by a wrongful act deserves compensation, and I will do my utmost to bring recompense to those who need and deserve it.

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