pt safety question, please help

  1. 0
    Ok, the problem that I have is with Hospice and the rules. I am a LVN at a hospital and I had a pt last night that is on hospice. The Dr. and the family is waiting for the guy to die, so at the start of my shift the Dr. had ordered for the pt to receive Dilaudid 1mg EVERY hr PRN. However I did not feel comfortable giving that much and I told the family that it is PRN and the pt was sleeping and VS were all normal. So I gave 4 doses thru out the 12hrs, so he did not die thru the night. The Dr. got there at 5am and noticed the pt had not died yet, he took the charge nurse aside and told him to have the family step out and smother him with a pillow! He in turn told me what the Dr. said and I about freaked at how he could even say such a thing. Anyway, the Dr. came back at 0700 and ordered Dilaudid 1mg every hr (not prn) and adivan every half an hr until death. Of course the Pharmacy called up to clarify the order and told the on coming nurse that she did not have to give that much and to use her judgement with it. She had the same feeling as I did. This is not right and she also said there was no way she would give that much just to speed up his death, and with 5 other pts there was no way to even keep up with it.

    So, what can I do or because he is on hospice it is ok to give him lethal doses to speed up his death.
    P.S I just called to check to see if he had died yet and he is still alive, with good vital signs.
  2. 20 Comments so far...

  3. 4
    This sounds to me to be a scary situation, hospice or not.
    If there is validity to the Dr. making a statement like that, I would think it is a
    criminal matter, and I would quit this employment.
    Hospice is a place where people go to die a peaceful comfortable death. It is not
    a place of euthanasia, and this sounds like a place I would not want to work at.

    Be very careful of your practice, it could be jeopardized in such a workplace.
  4. 3
    Really? Because the doc crossed the line of not only euthanasia, but conspiracy to commit murder, and anyone who heard this directive to smother the patient with the pillow is just as guilty as he is if he is not reported. Not that I don't believe you, but your story sounds pretty incredible. I mean, as nurses we often give high doses of morphine and ativan to ease a patient's passing, decrease air hunger, sedate them, etc. but nowhere under any circumstances is is legal to intentionally give lethal doses of a drug (like 50 of morphine) or to mechanically induce death. That's not hospice, it's murder.
    pinkchris2000, 4_Sq, and leslie :-D like this.
  5. 1
    I have a very hard time believing this story.
    badmamajama likes this.
  6. 2
    op, i do believe you, as incredulous as it sounds.
    (and that dr. is one stupid man.)
    NO- this is not ok at all.
    hospice never medicates "until death".
    and it is never ok to do so.

    seriously, i would file a report against the dr., submit to nm (with cc to DON) and refuse assignment all together.
    i'm thinking your risks/legal dept would not be ok with this at all.

    get away from this assignment.
    if, after submitting your report, orders remain unchanged, then it's time to get away from employer.

    do not discuss this with anyone except your superiors.
    and worth repeating, put everything in writing (same as what you posted here).
    take action immediately if able.

    let us know how it all pans out.

    leslie
    Esme12 and 4_Sq like this.
  7. 0
    The OPs story does not sound far fetched to me.
    Death by morphine, administered by the nursing staff, is not as far fetched as most people would like to believe.
    Last edit by imintrouble on Jan 8, '12 : Reason: Discretion
  8. 1
    That the order said "until death" would bother me, but I have had End of Life/Comfort Care patients who were on continuous doses of morphine, dilaudid, versed, ketamine that I'm pretty sure would kill a horse. I had an 8 year old who died last year on 100 mg of morphine an hour. He was on this dose for days (along with continuous ketamine and high dose q 4 hr ativan) before he died. My facility has a very specific protocol for escalating the doses of narcotics and benzos with patients on comfort care. So, OP, no, it is not ok to give "lethal" doses of these drugs for the purpose of speeding up death but in hospice patients, you would often be giving doses of these meds that would be considered lethal in other circumstances. Like, you would never give 100 mg of morphine to a post-op patient. The important thing is to titrate these meds appropriately to keep the patient comfortable.
    Esme12 likes this.
  9. 0
    I know it is unbelievable, and I would never believe it myself if it didn't happen. I am off today so I don't know if he passed away or not, I will call my friend that is working in a bit to ask. One thing I can say is that he is a fighter for life. I have made a few phone calls but since it is the weekend no one has called back. I just feel horrible about the whole situation, and this is what happens in America.

    I did not become a nurse to help kill people! I agree with all of you that hospice is supposed to help the pt to be comfortable until the end, not kill the pt.

    I am such a new nurse and didn't know if I could do anything because he is hospice. And my charge nurse just told me to use my nursing judgement on giving the medication and it is up to the family.
    I know I must be careful on how I follow thru with this because I will probably be on my own.

    Being a real nurse is nothing like nursing school, or being an EMT. I can honestly say that I am afraid!!
    I keep going over in my head,"did I document enough" most likely I didn't.
  10. 0
    Quote from nurse12b
    I know it is unbelievable, and I would never believe it myself if it didn't happen. I am off today so I don't know if he passed away or not, I will call my friend that is working in a bit to ask. One thing I can say is that he is a fighter for life. I have made a few phone calls but since it is the weekend no one has called back. I just feel horrible about the whole situation, and this is what happens in America.

    I did not become a nurse to help kill people! I agree with all of you that hospice is supposed to help the pt to be comfortable until the end, not kill the pt.

    I am such a new nurse and didn't know if I could do anything because he is hospice. And my charge nurse just told me to use my nursing judgement on giving the medication and it is up to the family.
    I know I must be careful on how I follow thru with this because I will probably be on my own.

    Being a real nurse is nothing like nursing school, or being an EMT. I can honestly say that I am afraid!!
    I keep going over in my head,"did I document enough" most likely I didn't.
    Honestly, I don't worry about my documentation with a hospice patient as much as I do with any other patient. On hospice/comfort measures, you're not doing VS and you're basically just managing meds to keep the patient comfortable and dealing with the family. When a patient is on hospice, the outcome is fairly certain- the patient is ultimately going to die. I know that no one reads anything I document and that the only time it would really matter would be if a case were to go to court. Of course, I document on all patients as thoroughly as possible always aware that that could happen but with a hospice patient, it's not something I'd stress about.

    I would also suggest not getting too wrapped up with this patient when you are not currently on duty. I used to call in to check on my patients (especially the dying ones) all the time but I find I'm much more effective at my job if I only worry about it on days when I'm there. My patients die... it happens and it's going to continue to happen. My days off are for me to do things for myself and to not worry about work.
  11. 2
    I have never worked for hospice, but have provided end of life care for hospital patients. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but 1 mg of dilaudid and ativan, while a large dose in a general patient population, does not seem out of line in an end of life situation. When I've worked with these patients, we always use continuous infusions of narcotics and benzos to ensure comfort, with additional PRN doses if needed. Is it possible the doctor was concerned for the patient's discomfort if not receiving these doses? Has he watched other patients suffer due to a failure to provide appropriate medication? Was he trying to prevent an onset of discomfort that may be difficult to overcome once it has begun? As for the comment, I have said and heard many statements in moments of frustration. Things you would never say to a family member or patient, but say to a colleague to vent. It does not make it right, the comment you mentioned is way out of line, just something to consider. If in fact, he truly wanted to speed death and not assure that the patient encounters a peaceful end... scary!
    wooh and KelRN215 like this.


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