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Suit against Christus: Woman got 10 times dosage of drug

SANTA FE – A new lawsuit says a Santa Fe woman who went to the hospital here with a swollen upper lip died after she received 10 times the dose of an anti-allergy drug that had been ordered by a physician.

Rachel Cox suffered cardiac arrest and died after receiving the incorrect amount of epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, in the emergency room at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, says the state District Court suit filed last week by plaintiff Joleen K. Youngers, personal representative for Cox.

The wrongful death suit names the hospital and an emergency room nurse as defendants and seeks punitive and compensatory damages.

Arturo Delgado, spokesman for the hospital, did not provide a statement on the case. “Our hearts go out to anyone that experiences the loss of a loved one, but we can’t comment on pending litigation,” Delgado said.

According to the complaint, Cox sought treatment at the Christus St. Vincent emergency room on June 25. She died in a Colorado hospital four days later.

Cox went to the hospital with a swollen upper lip, and her vital signs were normal and she was not showing any symptoms of respiratory or cardiac distress, the suit states.

The complaint says that based on electronic medical records, Dr. Jonathan Severy ordered 0.3 milligram of epinephrine be administered to Cox subcutaneously, via an injection under the skin. The records show instead that nurse Susan B. Edwards gave 3 milligrams of epinephrine, the suit maintains, and it was administered through an IV push, in which the injection goes through an intravenous line, usually over a minute or two.

Cox immediately had trouble breathing and later experienced severe cardiac and respiratory arrest, according to the complaint. “Prolonged resuscitation efforts ensued, to little or no avail,” the suit states.

The suit says Severy has “testified under oath” – in what venue is not clear – that after Cox went into cardiac arrest, Edwards asked to speak with him privately.

During this conversation, the suit says, Severy told Edwards that the records should “reflect exactly what happened.” The nurse subsequently made an entry saying she used the IV push, instead of going the subcutaneous route, “because Dr. Severy had verbally modified his previous order to this effect.” Severy is not listed as a defendant.

Cox was transferred to University of Colorado Hospital in Denver, where she died June 29. The complaint does not give an age or date of birth for Cox, and it’s unclear what her relationship is to Youngers, who lives in Las Cruces. Attorneys for Youngers did not return phone messages Tuesday.