Accidental overdosing leaves parents concerned about safety within hospitals

By Jake Verterano
April 24, 2008

dam o’neill/submitted photo

Almost every parent cries when their child is born, but some cry for all the wrong reasons.

Two percent of children under the age of 15 are accidentally overdosed in hospitals every year according to a 2003 survey conducted by

“While it is hard to believe, problems like this do happen,” Jennifer Cela, a nursing major at Raritan Valley Community College and phlebotomist at the Hunterdon Medical Center Nursery Unit, said. “Hospitals do their best to protect infants, but there is always the possibility of an accidental overdose.”

Actor Dennis Quaid’s children were the victim of an accidental overdose this past November. His infant twins, Thomas Boone Quaid and Zoe Grace Quaid, were being treated for blood problems at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

The Quaid children were accidentally given 10,000 units of Heparin, a drug used to clean out IV lines and prevent blood clots. Infants are only supposed to be given 10 units maximum.

The helpless infants immediately began bleeding out, and the fight to hold onto their lives began. Fortunately for Quaid and his wife, Kimberly, their children survived this ordeal.

Some newborns are not so lucky.

“A dosage like that could have easily killed those children,” Dennis Vinias, a biology and pre-medicine major at Towson University, said. “They’re really lucky to be alive.”

Hospitals were made to ensure that people are medically healthy. If this is the case, then why are 2 percent of children accidentally overdosed each year?

“Situations like this happen because people don’t follow protocol,” Cela said. “Protocols were created to ensure that problems like this do not happen.”

Nurses and doctors in hospitals are required to review patient’s medical records at least five times before doing anything medically to the patient.

In the case of the Quaid situation, the belief is that a nurse grabbed and administered the medicine without looking at the children’s chart thoroughly. This is directly going against hospital protocol.

“It makes you wonder how safe you really are in a hospital,” Christine Haught, an interior designer and mother of one, said. “When I had my son, everything seemed fine [in the hospital], but I just wanted to be near him and make sure he was okay.”

One of the reasons people believe nurses and doctors sometimes slip up is because of the long hours they work.

“Sometimes, I’ll go in at midnight, work until 12 p.m., and be back in by four for another 12 hour shift,” Cela said.

With the lack of sleep and constant chaos these workers are around, attention to important medical issues is lessened.

“Sometimes you start to drift off at work,” Julie Maxcy, a nursing major at Raritan Valley Community College and phlebotomist at the Hunterdon Medical Center, said. “It can be hard to keep focused.”

Many do not feel that is an excuse.

“When the issue is the medical safety of myself and my family, I think that everyone should be paying close attention,” Haught said. “I wouldn’t decorate someone’s home and throw together something half done. No, I would follow it through to the best of my abilities. This is a professional world, and the last place you want to be unprofessional is a hospital.”

While medical mishaps continue in hospitals, people continue to go to them. They have no where else to receive medical treatment.

“It’s ironic,” Cela said. “A hospital is supposed to be a place where you come to get immunity from disease and illness, but our institution in itself is not immune to failure.”

Jake Verterano

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