THE death of a 39-year-old woman at Orange hospital is being investigated after family members were told she was administered a fatal dose of morphine.
The woman was being palliatively treated for cancer and her daughter and mother were at her bedside when she died on September 1.
General manager of Orange Health Service Catherine Nowlan yesterday confirmed an investigation had started under the supervision of Orange Health Service’s medical services director Dr Louis Christie.
She said family of the woman would be told the outcome of the investigation when it was completed.
Ms Nowlan said staff involved with the treatment of the deceased woman remain on duty.
“They are being given support,” Ms Nowlan said.
“Our thoughts are with the family during this very sad and difficult time.”
The woman’s daughter said she was at her mother’s bedside, with her grandmother, when they realised the woman’s condition had rapidly deteriorated.
“She started gasping for breath,” the dead woman’s mother said.
“There was usually only ever one nurse with mum when she was given the treatment, but then all these people came in to the room and told us we had to leave because mum was being examined,” the dead woman’s daughter said.
The woman died at 10.50am on September 1, the day before her family planned to take her to a hotel for lunch on her birthday.
“We’d made the booking and I ordered the cake and balloons - we were looking forward to it,” the daughter said.
When the woman died, the daughter said she immediately questioned staff.
She said she was told her mother was given the incorrect dose of morphine.
“I said to the doctor so you’re telling me mum died of an overdose and he said ‘yes’.”
Ms Nowlan said as the cause of death was known, the case was not referred to the coroner.
A spokesperson for the Health Care Complaints Commission said an internal investigation was in line with hospital procedure in NSW.
“It is usual practice then for the hospital to consult with the family when the final report is prepared,” the spokesperson said.
“We only become involved when a family member is unhappy with a finding of an internal hospital investigation and we can request a copy of the final report on their behalf.”
The woman’s daughter said at the time of her death, her mother was receiving morphine for pain management through a method which is commonly used for cancer patients involving a syringe device locked in to a small box leading directly to a tube in a stent which was located in her mother’s stomach.
A spokesperson for Western NSW Local Health District said it is policy to have two nursing staff present during administration of schedule eight medicines.