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South Florida Grandfather Killed After Nurse Administers Lethal Injection Drug

By Candice Leigh Helfand
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File photo of hospital lab work.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

File photo of hospital lab work. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

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South Florida Crime

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A South Florida man was killed when his nurse accidentally administered a drug used for lethal injections instead of the over-the-counter antacid he was prescribed.

Last July, 79-year-old grandfather Richard Smith was admitted to the North Shore Medical Center after a local practitioner administering Smith’s routine dialysis expressed concern with his shortness of breath. While speaking with doctors at the hospital, Smith also complained of indigestion.

Doctors then prescribed Pepcid, an over-the-counter antacid, to quell Smith’s stomach pains. What he was accidentally given, however, was Pancuronium, a muscle relaxer used to carry out lethal injections on death row inmates.

Nurse Uvo Ologboride was allegedly responsible for the mistake made July 30, 2010 that ultimately led to Smith’s death one month later.

In addition to giving Smith the wrong medicine, Ologboride also failed to check the labels of the medicine, scan the medication, and scan Smith’s patient identification bracelet.

“This is one of the worst cases of medical neglect I’ve ever seen,” Andrew Yaffa, the attorney representing the Smith family in their wrongful death suit against both the hospital and Ologboride, told CBS Miami.

After the wrong medication was put into his IV, Smith was reportedly left alone for a half-hour. When he was found, he was cold and blue, initially unresponsive.

Though doctors were able to resuscitate Smith, he never fully recovered or regained brain function, and died several weeks later.

“Assuming they had followed … protocol, alarms would have been screaming for 30 minutes straight,” Yaffa noted. “Doctors could have gotten there in a timely fashion, intervened … and saved that poor man’s life.”

A spokesperson for the North Shore Medical Center said that the hospital took all necessary steps in preventing future mistakes of this nature.

“This was a tragic event which we immediately self-reported to Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA),” a hospital spokesperson told CBS Miami. “We conducted an internal review and have several new processes in place to ensure a situation like this does not happen again.”

Added the spokesperson, “The state has been to the hospital to confirm we have corrected the deficiencies cited in their previous report.”

According to Yaffa, Ologboride still works for the hospital to this day, in the same unit as when the fateful dose of Pancuronium was administered to Smith.

“Our main priority is to provide safe, quality health care to our patients,” said North Shore’s spokesperson. “Our hearts go out to the Smith family for their loss.”

Yaffa said that Smith was the patriarch of his family, a retired educator who raised four biological children and 10 other neighborhood children in need, alongside his wife.

“This is a family that is well-regarded and well-loved. It’s a horrific story,” he said. “Here it is, Thanksgiving, and (Smith) loved to cook. At this time of year, he is going to be sorely missed … and it’s very unfortunate that all of this is unfolding here and now.”

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