Investigation: Hospital Death - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Investigation: Hospital Death

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A Denton family is demanding answers after an emergency room trip turned tragic.

A recent report says medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in this country.  If your loved one dies in a Texas hospital and you think a medical error was the cause, you may never learn what happened because state investigations of hospital are all top secret.

"Every time I go to sleep, I see his face, like help me" Regina Evans said. Regina is the wife of Richard Evans.

Regina can barely talk about her husband.

"The way they did him is something I will never get over," Regina said.

Back in early May, Evans was having stomach pain. Regina called 911.

An ambulance rushed him to Denton Regional Medical Center. Within a few hours, the 57 year old was dead.

"All I want is the truth," Regina said.  "I want them to tell me what happened."

Records show the hospital took a CT scan and noted, "obstruction possible" but the doctor who reviewed the scan said the findings and exam "did not merit" an emergency and agreed to "see" Evans the next morning.

While in the emergency room that night, for one hour and 35 minutes, a nurse injected Evans with six doses of the potent pain killer, morphine.

"The more morphine she gave him, it worsened his pain," Evans said.

"He had stood up and he was reaching for something that he thought was on the wall or in the air," Winn Evans, Richard Evan's brother said.

The family says that is when the nurse took action.

"She charged in and said, it's the morphine, it's the morphine. I will give him the Narcan," Winn said.

Narcan is a drug that reverses the effects of morphine.

"He was trying to talk," Regina said. "His eyes started rolling and he was just shaking, just shaking."

The family says nurses moved Evans to another room. A few hours later, the doctor came in.

"She says he did not make it," Regina said.  "The only thing I did was bring him here for constipation.  Y'all never even addressed the constipation."

That night, the family says no one from the hospital was talking to them.  They got no explanation.  But Denton police were later called in and an investigator with the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's office met with the Evan's family.  They say the investigator told them he worked for the dead. He would get to the bottom of what happened to Richard Evans.

The investigators notes show the charge nurse on duty reported Evans had been placed on the "less critical side" of the emergency room and she "suspected" the ER doctor and nurse had "prescribed" and "given" Evans too much medication.

But when the autopsy was complete, Dr. Lloyd White concluded Evans died from "natural causes."  Furious, the family confronted White with a tape recorder to get the toxicology test results. They learned the office had not even run toxicology on Evans after he died.

"They believed they overdosed him on morphine," White said on the tape.  "That is what the hospital told us. This an interesting deal. I am going to check on this."

Dr. White left the meeting to check on the toxicology test. When he came back, he told the family there was another issue.

"I don't like to advise people to sue anybody but there is a question of medical negligence," White said.  "It is not the morphine. It is missing the diagnosis.  I don't understand. They missed it. They just plain missed the diagnosis."

After meeting with the family, Dr. White ordered the toxicology test with Evan's blood stored in the freezer but when those results came back, the cause of death was the same; natural causes.

The medical examiner's office concluded Evans died from an obstruction in the colon due to impaction, not an overdose.    

The report goes on to say, morphine may be used in "doses of 4-15 mg every 3-4 hours for pain." Evans was given "24 mg over a period of one hour and 35 minutes"  and "morphine is well known to cause or increase constipation."

The family also questioned the Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Nizan Peerwani about why toxicology had not initially been run.

"We corrected the error. We did the test," Peerwani said on the audio tape.

"They should not have given him morphine because morphine exaggerated his problems but he did not die from a morphine overdose."

"You take them to a hospital where he is supposed to get help. He ends of dying and the one entity that is supposed to find out what happened to get to the bottom of it, let's you down too and then cuts you off from any communication," Winn said.

The Evans family filed complaints against the hospital and with the state licensing boards against the doctors and nurses. They feel like they are no closer to the truth than the night Richard died. 

The Texas Department of Health Services launched an investigation into the hospital but the resulting report is so full of holes and deletions, you can barely tell it is even about Evans.  It is all confidential, even to the family.  That is Texas law.

At the cemetery, the family is still trying to understand how Evans died from natural causes.

"He went in for constipation and he is dead in 6-7 hours," Regina said.  "He did not deserve this."

Fox 4 contacted the hospital for comment but never heard back.  The Texas Nursing Board has now filed seven formal charges against the nurse who was giving Evans all that morphine.   The Board found Esmerelda Rosende failed to monitor Evan's vital signs, failed to document his mental status and keep accurate records in the emergency room. Fox 4 tried to contact Rosende but she has moved to Florida.

The doctor who performed the autopsy is no longer working for the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office. Dr. White left the office this summer after the Evan's incident.  Neither Dr. White nor Dr. Peerwani would comment about White's departure or the Evan's case.

Medical Examiners can only choose from four causes of death: natural, accidental, homicide or suicide.  Dr. Peerwani stands by the ruling of natural causes but the family believes it was accidental.  When it comes to life insurance, the policy would have paid double had it been ruled accidental.

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