A jury awarded a Tucson family $6 million in a lawsuit brought after an ailing 81-year-old relative died of a morphine overdose.
Mary Culpepper and two other relatives last month were awarded $2 million each, with the cost to be paid 90 percent by operators of a nursing home, Manor Care Health Services, and 10 percent to be paid by Tucson Medical Center.

Culpepper sued Manor Care, TMC, a doctor, nurse and pharmacy over the Dec. 8, 2003, death of her mother, Sylvia Culpepper. She was admitted to the medical center on Dec. 2, 2003, suffering from sciatica, a painful nerve condition.
On Dec. 4, 2003, she was prescribed 15 milligrams of morphine twice a day. Two days later, her dosage increased to 30 milligrams, twice a day. When Culpepper was transferred from Tuscon Medical Center to Manor Care, prescription orders contained both dosages. According to the lawsuit, the Manor Care staff failed to note the discrepancy in the prescriptions and gave her both dosages twice a day. An autopsy determined that Culpepper died of acute morphine intoxication. According to the jury’s verdicts, the doctor, nurse and pharmacy weren’t to blame for the death.
The increasing frequency of nursing home abuse is a sad consequence of our aging Baby Boomer population. It is a national problem recognized by the U.S. Dept. of Human Services, with the creation of the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), where it is estimated that between 1 and 2 million Americans age 65 or older have been injured, exploited, or otherwise mistreated by someone on whom they depended for care or protection.

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