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23-year old women allegedly received too much morphine

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 1, 2011) – A lawsuit filed against Guam Memorial Hospital this month alleges that hospital negligence led to the death of a 23-year-old woman.

The lawsuit, filed Nov. 17 at the Superior Court of Guam, was brought by the estate of Tallia C. Montgomery, a woman who died in 2009. The lawsuit alleges that Montgomery was administered an improper amount of morphine under the supervision of a doctor who was on the "excluded" list of providers who could treat patients who receive federal funding.

The doctor, Vincent Duenas, has previously over-prescribed "a dangerous controlled substance to a prior patient," and was placed on the list, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit does not state whether Montgomery received federal funding.

[PIR editor’s note: Earlier this year, union representatives at GMH alleged that staff had been exposed to dangerous levels of nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, for years without proper measures being taken to ensure employees' safety. Staff have reported a variety of health issues allegedly stemming from the gas leak, including miscarriages, cancers and hysterectomies. The cash-strapped GMH has also been part of a class-action lawsuit that calls for the hospital to pay almost US$7 million in unpaid retirement contributions for 1996 to 1998, 2000 to 2003, and 2010 to 2011.]

"Physicians negligently and carelessly performed or supervised the administration of fluid to Tallia with the result that Tallia became progressively more unresponsive and physically emaciated," the lawsuit says.

Montgomery was given at least 12 milligrams of morphine within a 12-hour period. The total amount of morphine she received is "in excess of what was medically appropriate," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also alleges that doctors improperly diagnosed Montgomery with Budd-Chiari syndrome, which led to an incorrect and "medically inappropriate" administration of a drug called Heparin.

Montgomery had first gone for care at GMH in early December. In mid-December after receiving Heparin, Montgomery went for treatment at the Makati Medical Center in the Philippines, where her condition improved, the lawsuit says. Montgomery went back to GMH in late December to receive medication before she was to be transferred to Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, the lawsuit states.

Between Dec. 21 and Dec. 26, 2009, Montgomery’s family tried three times to obtain her discharge from GMH so the woman could receive treatment elsewhere, but attempts were "thwarted" by GMH personnel, the lawsuit states.

Rey Vega, the hospital’s administrator, said the hospital could not comment on the case.

"This is now being handled by our legal counsel," he said. "This is a legal case so we’re letting the legal process move this forward."

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