Hospital Worker Steals Painkillers from Patients in Severe Pain Jefferson Regional Medical Center is Sued

Pittsburgh, Sept 13, 2017: They were hospital patients who really needed painkillers. Most of them were wracked with truly excruciating pain. Post-surgery patients.  Late stage cancer patients.  Severe accident victims.  Amputation.

“The descriptions of suffering in speaking with these patients and their families are heartbreaking,” said Jennifer Webster, an attorney at the law firm SPK, who represents the patients. “These people were in agony, begging for relief. Little did they know that it was because their pain pills were being stolen.”

Hundreds, maybe thousands, of painkillers went somewhere else.  Likely to recreational drug use.

Right under the nose of hospital security, a woman working for Jefferson Regional Medical Center stole large quantities of oxycodone tablets that were supposed to be distributed to the patients by the hospital pharmacy,

A pharmacy technician, Cheryl Ashcraft, was substituting the pain pills with thyroid and anti-nausea medications because they had a similar appearance to the narcotic pain pills.   It is unclear precisely how long this was going on, but it was at least several months. Possibly affecting hundreds of patients.

What is certain is that the pills they got weren’t painkillers.  And that these patients in serious pain stayed in serious pain.

The theft would have continued if a patient’s daughter had not realized that it was not oxycodone that her mother was given.  It seems that’s how the pill substitution scheme was discovered.

It took some time to identify the patients who may have been affected. It took even longer for lawyers to get through the legal roadblocks that would have allowed the patients to file a class action suit, which was eventually denied. However, the attorneys for the patients would not be deterred.

Today, Alan Perer and Jennifer Webster, lawyers at SPK, filed suit against Jefferson Regional (also called Jefferson Hospital) in the Court of Common pleas in Allegheny County, on behalf of 16 individual patients or their survivors.

The patients’ case is concise and direct. They ask, how could this happen?

How could Jefferson Regional let hospitalized patients suffer severe pain without relief while their employee stole hundreds or possibly thousands of pain pills?

How could the security system in a hospital be so flawed that nobody spotted this for months and after so many issues with pain medication were reported?

Why were there not more safeguards designed to prevent the theft of dangerous narcotics?

If the case goes to trial, the hospital will have a lot of explaining to do.  There will be a lot of excuses.  A lot of missing details.  And of course none of that will matter.

What matters is that they had the means to treat severe, agonizing pain in hundreds of their patients.

And they failed.  They turned their patients into victims.

What can they do to make up for all the pain this caused?  From the patients’ point of view, not enough.

Actual Complaint filed with the Court can be downloaded at:

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