Simple Procedure Goes Fatally Wrong for Teenager with Autism

By Nicole Hegewald

Fifteen-year-old Michael Patrick Blankenship underwent a routine teeth cleaning. He had four teeth extracted in Seattle Children’s Hospital on March 9, 2009. The next morning he was found dead.

Many important indicators were over looked
that might have prevented this fatal accident…

Michael was not someone who should have been given this medication

Michael was not someone who should have been given this medication

Michael was diagnosed with severe autism and did not have the capability to speak. After his dental procedures he was prescribed a patch with pain medicine to help him sleep. The patch contained a fatal dose of Fentanyl. To be specific it was the highest dose available and released 100 micrograms of medication per hour.

Dr. David Fisher, the hospital’s medical director, said in a statement that Michael could not tolerate pills or liquid medicines.

Dr. Fisher continued on to say, “While this medication was prescribed and dispensed with the intention of providing the best care for the patient, in this case both the delivery system and the dose were inappropriate,” the statement said. “We immediately notified the family of our error and apologized. A thorough investigation revealed that this was not the fault of any one individual.”

Michael was not someone who should have been given this medication. Many important indicators were over looked that might have prevented this fatal accident from occurring.

Michael lived with his mother, Tammy Jarbo-Blankenship, and brother in Kent, Washington. Both were present in the house when Michael died and when his body was removed from the house. This has a very traumatic effect on the family.

“I cannot even begin to describe the pain and sorrow that I feel for the death of my dear son,” said Michael’s mother. “Michael’s needless death has devastated my entire family, and has especially impacted my youngest boy who still refuses to live in our home where Michael was found dead. And, knowing how egregious and preventable the mistake was just makes our grief and suffering that much more unbearable.”

Since the incident, a memorial fund was founded in Michael’s name, by his mother, to help other autistic children. The fund recognizes the obstacles children and families affected by autism have. It also generates public awareness of Autism.

Michael’s mother stated that her last chance to hold Children’s Hospital responsible for her son’s death would be with a law suite she filed on September 21, 2009. The lawsuit names Seattle Children’s Hospital, Barbara L. Scheller, DDS and her assistant Soultana Chatzopoulos, the physicians who were involved with Michael’s treatment.

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3 Comments

  1. wilma rodriguez
    Posted October 2, 2009 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    OMG IM SO SORRY FOR THAT MOTHER I ALSO HAVE A SON WITH AUTISM & HIS NAME IS MICHAEL TOO I CAN’T IMAGINE HER PAIN WOW!!!! HOW COULD THESE PEOPLE BE SO CARELESS 🙁 OH IM JUS IN TEARS OVER HERE NOW IM DEBATING SHOULD I TAKE MY SON MICHAEL TO A DENTIST OR NO MMMMM IS VERY SCARY WHO CAN U TRUST HELL I DONT EVEN TRUST THE SKOOLS ANYMORE SO SAD MY HEART GOES OUT TO MICHAELS MOM SO SAD I WISH I CAN GIVE HER A HUG R.I.P. MICHAEL

  2. Diana Jacobs
    Posted October 2, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    I hate to here things like this. Steven, my son with Autism has lots of med issues and i get chest pains every time we go to drs. My prayers go to the family

  3. Posted October 2, 2009 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    I am sooo sorry that this happened and that any mother and child would have to endure something this tragic. I’m sorry, but in reference to the medical directors investigation, I would say someone is to blame, and while that blame and lawsuit will not even begin to repair the damage their negligence has caused, it will perhaps open a door for families who have a child on the Autistic spectrum. This is too common for comfort and awareness needs to be spread. This is ridiculous.
    As for Michael’s parents, God bless you and don’t rest until you have gotten your story out there. Everything happens for a reason, and perhaps this tragedy will help save other lives. You’re in my thoughts and prayers…I am sorry for your loss.

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