How to Prevent an Opioid Death

By PPHAS, Special for  USDR

Paul Buisson’s death from opioid-related adverse events could have been prevented. In a recent article written by the Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety (PPAHS), which has been published on healthcare news site The Doctor Weighs In, three steps that could have been taken are  discussed.

The article focuses on the death of Canadian animator and cameraman Paul Buisson, who died in 2005 as a result of opioid-related respiratory depression. The 41-year-old was admitted to a hospital in Saint-Eustache, QC for kidney stones, where he was prescribed dilaudid (an opioid generically known as hydromorphone), along with Gravol. The next morning, he was found by the attending nurse unresponsive and foaming from the mouth. He was resuscitated, but was not moved to an intensive care unit. Less than an hour after the initial resuscitation, Paul fell into respiratory distress once  again.

“Though Mr. Buisson’s death is more than a decade old, similar opioid-related deaths continue to occur in clinical settings to this day,” says Michael Wong, JD, founder and executive director of PPAHS. He notes that between 2010-2014, the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) identified 36 medical-legal cases in which a patient was harmed following the administration of an opioid in  hospital.

PPAHS suggests that Mr. Buisson’s death could have been prevented had clinicians taken the following three preventative steps:

  1. Track his vital signs using continuous electronic monitoring, such as pulse oximetry and capnography; Mr. Buisson was left unattended for nearly 4 hours before he was found foaming at the mouth.
  2. Screening for additional risk factors to opioid-related respiratory depression, such as obesity and obstructive sleep apnea.
  3. Considering a pain management plan that includes opioid-sparing techniques.

These opioid-related incidences are not confined by geography. In a 2016 interview with the US-based non-profit ECRI, PPAHS discusses how inadequate monitoring for respiratory depression caused by opioids made ECRI’s annual list of top technology hazards for the last 5  years.

To read the full article on The Doctor Weighs In, please click  here.

About Physician-Patient Alliance for Health &  Safety

Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety is a non-profit 501(c)(3) whose mission is to promote safer clinical practices and standards for patients through collaboration among healthcare experts, professionals, scientific researchers, and others, in order to improve healthcare delivery. For more information, please go to  www.ppahs.org.

SOURCE Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety  (PPAHS)

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