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First wrongful death suit filed against Asante for alleged fentanyl diversion deaths

A covered driveway entrance to a large, beige building, with stairs leading up from a parking lot. A standing sign in the parking lot says, "South Lobby" and a sign on the covered entrance reads, "Hospital Entrance B"
Roman Battaglia
JPR News
An entrance to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford, January 4, 2024.

The suit alleges a nurse swapped pain medication with tap water, causing infection and death in a patient.

The estate of Horace Wilson has sued Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center and nurse Dani Marie Schofield for $11.5 million in damages, the majority of which is for Wilson’s pain and suffering endured before death. The news was first reported by the Oregonian.

It’s the first wrongful death suit against the hospital since the Medford Police Department acknowledged in January they were investigating allegations a former nurse replaced the opioid painkiller fentanyl with tap water, which allegedly led to an unknown number of deaths and illnesses.

Asante contacted impacted patients and family members in December.

“Asante knew or should have known of the high likelihood of opioid diversion by one of its employees for their own use given the prevalence of such acts throughout the United States, especially after Asante discovered diversion of controlled substances by one of its nurses from about August 2016 through July 2017,” the lawsuit filed by Idiart Law Group in Jackson County Circuit Court stated.

Wilson, who owned a cannabis company in Jacksonville, was admitted to Asante in January of 2022 after falling from a ladder, according to court documents. The suit alleged that while he was recovering from a splenectomy, Schofield recorded giving fentanyl to Wilson through infusion.

By early February, Wilson’s health had deteriorated. His blood cultures tested positive for bacteria and he experienced organ failure due to sepsis, according to records.

“Eventually, Horace Wilson was weaned from sedation and recovered enough mental function to communicate to the ICU staff that he no longer wished to live this way,” the suit stated.

He died on Feb. 25. at the age of 65.

According to Oregon Health Authority data, in the last two years Asante saw far higher central line-associated bloodstream infections — those that could occur if tap water was administered through infusion — compared to previous years.

Schofield, meanwhile, told the Oregon Board of Nursing in November 2023 that she would stop practicing until an investigation is complete.

Justin Higginbottom is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. He's worked in print and radio journalism in Utah as well as abroad with stints in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. He spent a year reporting on the Myanmar civil war and has contributed to NPR, CNBC and Deutsche Welle (Germany’s public media organization).