Death at Sydney hospital due to fentanyl toxicity

hospital staff wheel away empty gurney

A man who died hours after his operation was wrongly prescribed fentanyl instead of oxycodone and paracetamol

Paul Lau, 54, died at a Sydney hospital in June 2015 after he was given another patient’s medication following routine day surgery, a coroner has heard.

Counsel assisting Kirsten Edwards told Deputy State Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan that she would hear evidence that Mr Lau died from a drug overdose, after he was mistakenly given the medication of another patient.

The father of two had undergone a successful knee surgery and was meant to receive tablets of oxycodone and paracetamol to manage his pain.

But when medical chart was confused with another patient who was getting a hip replacement, he was given a patch and a patient-controlled pump of the strong painkiller fentanyl, which led to him dying from multiple drug toxicity, according to reports by the Sydney Morning Herald.

Ms Edwards said the anaesthetist in charge had mistakenly entered the fentanyl into Mr Lau’s electronic chart.

He had returned to the hospital that night and saw Mr Lau was being given fentanyl, but assumed it had been prescribed by someone else.

Nurses and pharmacy staff, who have since been disciplined, also failed to notice the error.

A number of procedures at the hospital have reportedly been changed in the light of Mr Lau’s death.

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