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Drug Mix-Up Blinds Patient, Spurs Malpractice Verdict

Cataract patient given methylene blue instead of VisionBlue.

Published: August 22, 2014

A mix-up over sound-alike drugs is at the heart of a $1.5 million jury award earlier this week stemming from a botched cataract procedure that left a patient blind in one eye.

You might say the cataract team at North Carolina Specialty Hospital blue it. Ophthalmologist Timothy Young, MD, PhD, who at the time was practicing with co-defendant North Carolina Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat, in Durham, called for the ophthalmic dye VisionBlue during a cataract removal in 2008, according to news reports. But a nurse instead retrieved methylene blue, a compound sometimes used in endoscopic polypectomies and one that's toxic to eyes.

Both the nurse and a surgical technician testified that they announced what the drug was before it was given to Dr. Young, but he testified that he didn't hear them.

A second procedure to repair the severe damage caused by the mix-up failed, as did a full corneal transplant.

Calls for comment by Outpatient Surgery Magazine to Dr. Young, who now practices in Texas, and to North Carolina Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat, were not returned.

Jim Burger

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