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.”


Unmapped roads raise risk to Southeast Asian rainforests — study

An aerial photo of a road running through an palm plantation in Dumai, Riau, Sumatra island, Indonesia. (Antara Foto/Rony Muharrman/via REUTERS/File)
Updated 27 May 2018
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Unmapped roads raise risk to Southeast Asian rainforests — study

  • Researcher Alice Hughes found that roads have penetrated areas previously considered untouched and unreachable by vehicles.
  • An average of 75 percent of roads in five countries were missing from OpenStreetMap (OSM), a mapping platform widely used by researchers and academics.

KUALA LUMPUR: Forests in parts of Southeast Asia face greater threats than previously thought because researchers often rely on data that ignores new roads, which are precursors to deforestation and development, a study shows.
The paper, published this month by the journal Biological Conservation, showed that an average of 75 percent of roads in five countries were missing from OpenStreetMap (OSM), a mapping platform widely used by researchers and academics.
“Large-scale forest clearance is preceded by the growth of road networks, which provide a stark warning for the region’s future,” the study said.
Author Alice Hughes, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, studied a total of 277,281 square kilometers by analyzing satellite images and maps showing forest loss and coverage, as well as agriculture concessions.
She found that roads have penetrated areas previously considered untouched and unreachable by vehicles.
“We are deluding ourselves that we still have large tracts of inaccessible, pristine forest, when the reality is highly-fragmented, very accessible forests,” Hughs said on Friday.
Her research examined road networks in parts of Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
“In some parts of the region, up to 99 percent of roads on those global maps, which are used as the basis for a huge amount of further analysis, are not included,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Deforestation and development of forests in the area studied have occurred at a rapid pace since 2000, said Hughes, while maps used by researchers do not regularly update their road data.
“Most of the time these roads are just providing access to forests and up to 99 percent of deforestation is within 2.5 km of road,” she said. “They are clearly the access method.”
She added that the region urgently needs better protection and enforcement for its remaining forests.
Indonesia, which is the world’s biggest palm oil producer, introduced a forest clearing moratorium in 2011 to help reduce deforestation.
Hughes said the ban should be expanded beyond just land designated as natural, untouched primary forest to include all high biodiversity forests.
Hughes’ research methodology should be used to determine whether the same patterns exist in other parts of the world, said Christopher Martius, team leader for climate change at the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research.
“It is surprising that nobody ever did that before, and it is shocking that the result shows we grossly underestimated the possible threat to tropical forests from road building,” he said by email.