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Autistic Teen Dies Due to Prescription Error

November 22nd, 2009

A prescription error made recently by staff at the Seattle Children’s Hospital, resulted in the tragic death of a fifteen-year old autistic boy who visited the hospital to have four teeth extracted. The boy, Michael Blankenship, was prescribed a Fentanyl patch for pain associated with recovery from the oral surgery. Blankenship was prescribed the patch because he had difficulty swallowing medications in pill or liquid form.

Fentanyl is a powerful narcotic used to treat “breakthrough” pain—that is pain that cannot be relieved by other medications—in cancer patients. According to the website, Fentanyl should not be prescribed unless the patient has already been treated, and built up a tolerance to, other opioid pain medications such as morphine, oxycodone and hydromorphone. In addition to those restrictions, Fentanyl specific design for cancer patients, the medication should only be prescribed under the care of a physician, as it may adversely affect other medications or health conditions.

Clearly, Fentanyl was not created with the intention of treating post-surgical discomfort. Nevertheless, hospital staff not only prescribed the patch to Blankenship, but allowed him to be released from the hospital and the treatment to occur unsupervised in his home. Blankenship’s mother—following the instructions given to her by hospital staff—administered the Fentanyl patch to her son at his bedtime. By morning, Michael Blankenship had died from a narcotics overdose.

An investigation into hospital prescription procedures is underway and a spokesperson for the hospital announced that changes in the methods used to prescribe and administer the patch have already begun.

Prescription medication is heavily regulated, and for good reason. Many medications must be administered with the utmost of care. Failure to closely follow the instructions associated with medications can result in tragedy. Even the most minor of medical or pharmaceutical error can pose grave consequences to patients and their loved ones.

The attorneys at have a long record of successfully representing victims of medical and pharmaceutical error. If you, or someone you know, have been injured because of being prescribed the wrong medicine, or other medical error, please contact us at for a free consultation. Our attorneys are available to assist in all aspects of your litigation.

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Gavin P. Lentz, Esq.
Bochetto & Lentz

Gavin Lentz (right) was selected as a "Super Lawyer" for 2006-2009 and 2010-2015 in New Jersey by Philadelphia Magazine. He has also been selected as a "Super Lawyer" by Philadelphia Magazine and the Legal Intelligencer in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 - 2015.

On September 16, 2002 Mr. Lentz was selected as one of the top 50 lawyers in Pennsylvania by the Legal Intelligencer.

He has made many television appearances, including on Fox News, The Today Show, Inside Edition, and The Phil Donahue Show.

Mr. Lentz is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

As a former prosecutor, he knows how to aggressively go after large pharmacy chains to prove the facts necessary to protect your loved one's rights.

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