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Buhl family files wrongful death suit against St. Luke's

From the The top 12: December 2021's most-read stories series
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St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center

A sign acknowledging the hospital employees hangs on display at the front entrance April 9 at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center in Twin Falls.

BUHL — A local woman’s family is suing St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center and Dr. Michael Fry for wrongful death after the woman died of a lethal mix of antidepressants administered by the hospital after she was admitted for an infection.

Sherry Thaete, 70, of Buhl died Jan. 17 from serotonin syndrome as a result of being given a dose of Paxil while she had Nardil in her system, the lawsuit says. The two antidepressants are serotonin-boosting drugs that can cause physical problems — even death — when combined.

“I knew it was very dangerous to combine the medications,” Thaete’s husband, Keith, told the Times-News.

Sherry Thaete

Thaete

Before her death, the 70-year-old woman was under the care of a Twin Falls psychiatrist who had prescribed phenelzine (generic for Nardil) to treat depression and anxiety.

On Jan. 15, Thaete’s husband took her to the emergency department after she showed symptoms of having a stroke. After CT scans and bloodwork, she was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and was admitted to the hospital for observation, says the civil complaint, obtained by the Times-News from John Kluksdal of the legal firm Hepworth Holzer.

Keith Thaete said he showed hospital personnel his wife’s prescription bottle of Nardil and said she needed to take the medication first thing in the morning. A nurse, however, told him they would get the medication from the hospital pharmacy and that they didn’t need the bottle of pills.

Upon his insistence, one nurse took his wife’s prescription bottle to her station.

“I saw her tapping on the computer,” he said. “I thought she was entering it into the record.”

He reiterated the instructions for the medication to hospital personnel numerous times, he told the Times-News.

Keith Thaete arrived the next morning at his wife’s room on the third floor of the hospital to find she had a fever and was shaking. He asked a nurse what they had given her and the nurse told him Fry had prescribed 60 milligrams of Paxil.

Keith Thaete then told the nurse that his wife’s psychiatrist had told him that a mixture of Paxil and Nardil can cause death.

His wife was moved to the intensive care unit and placed on a cooling catheter. Her temperature reached a high of 109 degrees, the suit says.

The attending physician told her husband that “he was sorry and they had made a mistake,” the complaint says.

Sherry Thaete was then placed in a medically induced coma.

Later that night, the hospital called Keith Thaete to tell him his wife was bleeding internally, the document says. She died the next morning “as a direct and proximate result of the Defendants’ negligent, negligent per se, and reckless conduct.”

The Times-News reached out to St. Luke’s for a comment, but spokesperson Michelle Bartlome declined, saying the hospital does not comment on pending litigation.

The suit was filed by Keith Thaete and sons, Steve King and Lance Thaete, on Oct. 29, Kluksdal said. A court date has yet to be scheduled.

“It was pretty tough to take when it happened,” Keith Thaete said Wednesday. “This is something no one should have to go through and I feel like the hospital should be held accountable.

“The frustrating part for me is I had the (correct) medication right there in my hand.”

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