A mother is suing a Houston pharmacy for making a mistake that cost her 6-year-old daughter’s life last April. Jadalyn Williams passed away one day after receiving a morphine prescription that her mother claims to have been too high for the little girl, who suffers from sickle cell anemia.
The inherited blood disorder, which affects more than 70,000 Americans, causes blood vessels to become blocked due to misshapen hemoglobin. Instead of moving through the bloodstream with ease, these crescent-shaped blood cells get stuck, depriving the body’s tissues and organs from getting the oxygen they need to stay healthy.
Jadalyn had been given morphine on and off again since she was one-year-old because of the severe bouts of pain people with sickle cell anemia experience. The sick cells block blood flow through small blood vessels typically in the chest, stomach, arms and legs, which causes "pain crises," a term used to describe the periods of severe pain.
Jadalyn’s mother, Simone Allen, was used to easing her daughter’s pain with liquid morphine from Cullen Care Pharmacy, where Allen had been a loyal customer for 10 years. That is, until the pharmacy gave her a dose 10 times higher than what her prescription called for, according to a copy of the lawsuit.
Initially it was handled as a criminal investigation in order to figure out if Allen had given her daughter the wrong dose by accident, but that was quickly ruled out and attention turned to the small pharmacy. Allen’s lawyer, Muhammad Aziz, says they had hoped to settle out of court, but once the pharmacy’s insurance company denied the allegations and claimed Jadalyn’s death was caused by her own blood disorder, they resorted to taking them to court.
“Miss Allen hopes that Cullen Pharmacy and all other pharmacies will pay more attention to the training of their employees,” Aziz said.
According to Aziz, it could take another 18 months for the case to go to trail, only dragging out the process for a mother in mourning. Texas tort reform, a legal claim created to fairly compensate for wrongdoing by one party to another, will cap the case award at $250,000 for personal damages.
Allen first sought an apology from the pharmacy staff, with whom she was on first name basis; however, she claims that she received none with the passing of her daughter. Aziz said it is clear that it was the pharmacy’s fault the little girl was overdosed and they have the coroner’s report, pharmacy records, and remaining contents of the morphine bottle to support the dosage discrepancy.
The lawyer representing Cullen Care Pharmacy, Michele Quattlebaum, said she has just received a copy of the lawsuit and was unable to comment on the pending litigation, but did say, “All allegations will be investigated thoroughly.”
Researchers say more than 60,000 young children in the U.S. are admitted into the emergency rooms and treated for accidental overdoses because of neglect of a parent or caregiver every year. These accidental overdoses have been on the rise since 2011 with an increase of 20 percent in recent years. There are ways to protect children from such a fate, including putting medications and even vitamins in hard-to-reach places, making sure the safety caps are clicked shut, teaching children about medicine safety, and telling guests to keep their medical belongings safely out of site while visiting.
None of these steps would have helped Jadalyn’s mother, however, who trusted her decade-long relationship with her pharmacy enough to give her daughter the dosage she was prescribed. Allen is on a mission now.
“I don’t want anyone to ever have to go through what I’ve been through,” she said.