Seattle Children's Hospital admits fatal error - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Seattle Children's Hospital admits fatal error

SEATTLE, Wash. - Seattle Children's Hospital admits mistakes made by hospital doctors and staff led to a 15-year-old autistic boy's death after a dental procedure.

Michael Blankenship died in March when a pain patch he was given after dental surgery proved to be an inappropriate drug and dose for the boy.

The boy's family filed a lawsuit against the hospital last week.

While nothing will bring back the boy or relieve the pain of his family, the hospital appears to be willing to own up to their mistakes and move forward.

From all accounts Michael Blankenship was a well-liked teenage boy who enjoyed his life despite the challenge of having autism.

"He was a loving boy, despite his disability," said Chris Davis, his family's lawyer.

Michael was autistic and couldn't speak well. He also couldn't tolerate swallowing medication. So after the dental surgery, his dentist prescribed a Fentanyl patch to help with the pain.

According to her attorney, Michael's mother checked with the doctor, the discharge nurse, and the hospital pharmacist since her son had never used the patch before.

They all assured her it would be fine.

Fentanyl patches are usually used for cancer patients with a tolerance for opiates.

Michael had never taken narcotics before and that night the patch released a fatal dose of the medication.

"I certainly don't question the dentist's motive to try to do something for the patient, but we believe the facts in the case show that it's more than just a simple negligence case," said Chris Davis, family's attorney.

"We can never bring back this child and we can't fully understand to what level we have devastated this family," said Dr. David Fisher, Seattle Children's Hospital.

The hospital's medical director is clearly distraught by the teen's accidental death and admits both the delivery system and the dose were inappropriate.

The family's lawsuit also names dentist Barbara Sheller.

While the hospital has decided not to discipline the doctor in this case, in the months since Michael's death, they have made several changes.

"A thorough investigation revealed that this was not the fault of any one individual. Our detailed root cause analysis identified that this occurred because our processes failed at multiple points," said Fisher.

Children's has already made numerous changes as a result of this case.

They have changed their process for prescribing and administering Fentanyl patches.

They reported the case to the Washington Department of Health and the FDA.

They have added information about the patch to their medication database and they're looking for additional areas of risk to investigate.

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