What Killed Eryon Barnett?
Eryon was a 24 year old NFL hopeful and former MSU football player when he died at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital after receiving unusually high amounts of the powerful opioid IV Dilaudid in combination with IV Valium – a potentially deadly combination because of the high risk of respiratory depression. Although his physicians noted that Eryon was receiving “exorbitant” amounts of Dilaudid, they did nothing to correct his dosing or appropriately monitor him despite a closet full of electronic monitors they chose not to use. So, as they continued to administer the exorbitant amounts of Dilaudid, the drugs slowed down his breathing and heart rate and Eryon slowly slipped into respiratory depression. But because the hospital did not monitor him, they never knew it. And they never knew Eryon had died until they discovered him 6 to 8 hours after death, when he was already cold and rigid. See the affidavits and declarations of some of Plaintiffs’ experts in this case that establish the numerous failures of care. The experts also show – under penalty of perjury - that, despite the Hospital’s and its physicians’ administration of exorbitant amounts of Dilaudid, Eryon’s life could have been saved by administering Narcan, an opioid antagonist, had the hospital properly monitored Eryon. But because continuous monitoring was never ordered nor administered, nobody was alerted to the need for Narcan, and Eryon died unnoticed. Had Eryon been properly monitored, Narcan could have been timely administered, reversing his respiratory depression which would have saved his life with no effect on his life expectancy. But because Eryon was not found until 6-8 hours after he died, Narcan would not have worked. Although it is a miracle drug, it cannot raise the dead.
The hospital, its doctors and nurses claimed not to know what killed Eryon. The Gallatin County Coronor’s office also claimed not to know what killed Eryon, relying on the physician’s false statement that Eryon had only 2 mg of Dilaudid on the day he died, when in fact the hospital had given him at least 11 mg in about 6 hours. Nor did the Coroner bother to appropriately investigate the time of death, never taking Eryon’s post-mortem temperature despite his having been discovered “cool to the touch.” The Montana State Crime lab tested Eryon’s blood but never quantitated the amount of Dilaudid and Valium in his blood. And, having been notified of its duty to preserve the information, and anticipating litigation within days of his death, the hospital “lost” critical information concerning the drugs that were administered to Eryon, claiming that it had no Omnicell computer dispensing information, no narcotic count record, no opioid wastage information, and no policies and procedures concerning the administration of opioids at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital.
Bozeman Deaconess Hospital made an offer of judgment of two million dollars before the judge heard the motions on the destruction of evidence, and Plaintiffs accepted the offer 30 days before trial.