A Baltimore jury awarded $10 million in damages against University of Maryland Medical System late last month, in wrongful death lawsuit filed over a medication error.
The family of Dennis Allen brought the medical malpractice case against the hospital, alleging that the drug Kayexalate was improperly administered after Allen was admitted for kidney problems in 2013.
Side effects of Kayexalate caused damage to his colon and resulted in Allen’s death.
Kayexalate is classified as a sodium polystyrene sulfonate and is used to treat patients with high levels of potassium in their blood. The prescription medication is taken orally usually between one and four times per day to allow the body to bind potassium in the large intestine so it can be removed naturally. High levels of potassium in the blood can cause heart rhythm issues.
The drug is designed to remove potassium by drawing it out of the blood and into the colon, and then pass it out through a bowel movement. However, previous studies have suggested that Kayexalate can cause colon problems, resulting in cell death, or colonic necrosis, which researchers say is potentially avoidable.
When those problems appeared to develop in Allen, it was his wife, instead of medical staff, who noticed blood in his stool. While he expected that only part of his colon would be removed, the surgery resulted in the removal of his entire colon and he died the next day.
During trial, the family argued that the hospital should have known about the potential risks with Kayexalate and monitored Allen better. They also argued that there were alternative methods of bringing down his potassium levels, which were safer, such as through dialysis.
Allen’s family was represented by the Maryland law firm of Miller & Zois, LLC.