Prince heirs sue Illinois hospital over care during overdose

Prince performs at the Forum in Inglewood, California in this 1985 photo. An autopsy on the singer after his death found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin. (AP)
Updated 24 April 2018
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Prince heirs sue Illinois hospital over care during overdose

MINNEAPOLIS: Prince’s heirs have sued Walgreens and the Illinois hospital that treated the music superstar after he suffered from an opioid overdose, alleging that a doctor and various pharmacists failed to provide Prince with reasonable care, contributing to his death.
The wrongful-death lawsuit filed in Cook County, Illinois, alleges a doctor and pharmacist at Trinity Medical Center in Moline, Illinois, failed to appropriately treat and investigate Prince’s April 15, 2016, overdose, and that he died “as a direct and proximate cause of one or more ... deviations from the standards of care.”
It accuses Walgreen Co. and pharmacists at two of its Minnesota branches of “dispensing prescription medications not valid for a legitimate medical purpose.”
Walgreens and the hospital’s parent company both declined to comment Monday, citing pending litigation.
Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park studio compound in suburban Minneapolis on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin.
Authorities said it was likely Prince didn’t know he was taking the dangerous drug, which was laced in counterfeit pills made to look like a generic version of the painkiller Vicodin. The source of those pills is unknown and no one has been charged in Prince’s death.
A week before he died, Prince passed out on a flight home from an Atlanta concert and the private plane made an emergency stop in Moline. The musician had to be revived with two doses of a drug that reverses effects of an opioid overdose.
At Trinity Medical Center, Prince refused medical tests but was asked what drugs he took. Documents show a pill that he had with him, which was marked as Vicodin, was sent to the pharmacy for testing. A hospital pharmacist said it appeared to be Vicodin and returned it to Prince.
Prosecutors said last week that no chemical testing was done on the pill, but evidence suggests it was counterfeit and laced with fentanyl.
The lawsuit alleges the pharmacist and emergency room physician, Dr. Nicole Mancha, failed to timely diagnose and treat the overdose and failed to provide appropriate counseling.
The allegations against Walgreens stem from prescriptions that were dispensed to Prince, but written under the name of his bodyguard, Kirk Johnson. Authorities said Dr. Michael Todd Schulenberg admitted that he prescribed oxycodone to Prince under Johnson’s name to protect Prince’s privacy. Schulenberg disputes that, but paid $30,000 to settle allegations the drug was prescribed illegally.
Attorneys for Prince’s family, George Loucas and John Goetz, said in a statement that they will have more to say when the time is right.
“Prince’s family wishes, through its investigation, to shed additional light on what happened to Prince. At the same time further light on the opiate epidemic will hopefully help the fight to save lives,” the attorneys said. “If Prince’s death helps save lives, then all was not lost.”


Rwanda’s rhino population grows, tourists expected to increase

Updated 25 June 2019
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Rwanda’s rhino population grows, tourists expected to increase

  • There are only about 1,000 black rhinos left in the wild, Jes Gruner, the Akagera National Park manager, said
  • In 2017 tourism earned Rwanda $437 million

KIGALI: Rhino keepers who successfully delivered five endangered black rhinos to Rwanda spent months hugging and coddling them inside their transport boxes to prepare them for the journey, a rhino handler said as the animals were freed on Monday.
The two male and three female eastern black rhinoceroses were flown from Safari Park Dour Kralove zoo in the Czech Republic, where they had been getting to know each other after arriving from separate European parks.
“The preparation process took several months. It started in autumn last year when two animals were brought here from Denmark and England. They started to bond, which always takes weeks because black rhinos are very alert and nervous animals,” said rhino handler Jaromir Sejnoha from the Dvur Kralove Safari Park.
“In the final phase (of preparations) the rhino is trained to stay inside the box for several minutes. We feed them and hug them in there, so they aren’t scared of the box and become accustomed to it, and so on the day of transportation they don’t get nervous and the whole transportation goes smoothly.”
There are only about 1,000 black rhinos left in the wild, Jes Gruner, the Akagera National Park manager, said. The new arrivals mean Rwanda is home to 25 of them.
Tourism is a key foreign exchange earner in the East African nation, home to mountain gorillas and the so-called “Big Five” African game animals — lions, rhinos, elephants, buffalo, and leopard.
“Every year our tourism numbers are going up and bringing these rhinos I am sure will help,” Gruner said.
The park received 44,000 visitors who generated over $2 million last year, Gruner said.
In 2017 tourism earned Rwanda $437 million. Clare Akamanzi, chief executive of the Rwanda Development Board, said 2018 numbers were not yet ready due to a change of methodology.
The push for tourist dollars in not without controversy. The government’s 2018 deal to pay British football club Arsenal £30 million ($38 million) to have “Visit Rwanda” emblazoned on the team’s jersey was criticized by politicians in some donor nations who questioned whether it was a good use of money by a government still heavily dependent on foreign aid.