Surgery Patients Claim Indiana Nurse Stole Their Morphine

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

Three surgical patients claim a nurse at an Indiana hospital stole their morphine, leaving them in pain.

The patients filed a class action suit in Indiana state court against Whitley Memorial Hospital dba Parkview Whitley Hospital.

The plaintiffs say the hospital failed to maintain secure access to the morphine derivative hydromorphone. They say registered nurse Britte E. Smith was stealing the medication and giving them saline solution instead.

Smith, 40, was arrested in June on charges of theft and possession of a narcotic drug and interference with medical services.

Although she is identified in the court documents, Smith is not a defendant in the class action.

The medication was dispensed by the hospital's Pyxis machine and Smith would allegedly use her ID number to access the drugs.

"Smith's access records to the medications kept by Pyxis revealed highly elevated access for Hydromorphone HCL, beyond that typical of other nurses using Pyxis," the complaint says.

"Smith was found to have manipulated the medications withdrawn, replacing the liquid Hydromorphone HCL with saline," it continues. "The saline was then given to patients unknowingly, as a supposed aid to the reduction of their pain."

The hospital says it cooperated fully with police and that no patient was injured by Smith's actions.

“Upon learning the results of our thorough investigation, I promptly contacted patients potentially impacted by the actions of the accused and shared with them our findings,” Parkview Whitley president Scott Gabriel said in a statement to WFFT-TV. “I wanted to personally inform anyone potentially impacted by these actions that we have no reason to believe their health was compromised.”

The plaintiffs seek damages for negligence and constructive fraud.

Sources: WFFT-TV, Courthouse News Service

Image Credit: gesinek