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B.C. hospital overdosing error causes brain damage in newborn, lawsuit claims

Parents say son was given medication ten times stronger than prescribed

A newborn baby was left with permanent disabilities while staying at the B.C. Children’s Hospital after staff gave him medication ten times stronger than he was supposed to receive, a lawsuit by his parents claims.

The baby boy was just nine days old on Aug. 5, 2022 when his parents were called by the hospital and told to bring their son in immediately. Blood work taken when he was born had come back and revealed he had a metabolic disorder that can cause high ammonia levels when left untreated. If the amount of ammonia in a person’s body gets too high, it can be life threatening.

At the B.C. Children’s Hospital, the newborn was given two drugs to lower his ammonia levels, according to the lawsuit filed in the B.C. Supreme Court on Sept. 6, 2023. He responded well to the treatment, but was kept in hospital.

On Aug. 16, 2022, the day before he was supposed to be discharged, a doctored ordered a switch of one of the newborn’s drugs. When that new drug was dispensed from the pharmacy, it was in an amount ten times stronger than prescribed, the lawsuit alleges.

It states staff proceeded to give those overdoses to the newborn at least four times over the course of two days, before the error was discovered. Tests then revealed the baby boy had “toxic” and “life-threatening” levels of benzoic acid in his blood and that he had suffered severe brain damage as a result.

The lawsuit claims he was left with “catastrophic and permanent physical and cognitive injuries and disabilities” and that he will require extensive care throughout the course of his life.

The claim is suing the Provincial Health Services Authority, Fraser Health Authority and Lower Mainland Pharmacy Services, saying each is vicariously liable for the negligence of their staff. The lawsuit is seeking general damages, the cost of past and future care needs for the newborn and loss of earning capacity, among other things.

None of the allegations have been proven in court and none of the defendants have filed responses to the lawsuit as of publication.

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About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

Hi, I'm a provincial reporter with Black Press Media, where I've worked since 2020.
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