Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession (6)10 Oct 98


Quick Summary: A student came to the campus health center with foot, jaw and throat pain. The nurse sent her away, thinking it was an ankle sprain and growth of wisdom teeth. When she returned six hours later the nurse noted a "strange affect" and gave her codeine without a physician’s order. The patient came in twice more with whole-body aches, and her jaw would not open. She died the next morning from meningococcal septicemia.

   The Court of Appeal of Massachusetts ruled the chart should have been "red-flagged" because of a letter from her specialist about systemic rheumatic illness, anemia and leukopenia. The court said the nurses would have seen the letter anyway, if they had read the chart. Haywood v. Rechen, 696 N.E. 2d 549 (Mass. App., 1998).