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Daughter sues Delnor, St. Charles doc over mom's opioid overdose death

St. Charles woman suffered knee pain, sought painkillers

GENEVA – Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital in Geneva has been named in a wrongful death lawsuit alleging its doctors and a primary care doctor ignored evidence that a patient was addicted to painkillers and continued to prescribe opioids until her death last year.

The lawsuit, filed in Cook County May 8, also names Fox Valley Adult and Pediatric Medicine and Dr. Zbigniew Ciechanowski, at 2020 Dean St., St. Charles.

The 10-page complaint, with additional information attached, seeks more than $60,000 in damages on behalf of Nina Koehler, the daughter of former St. Charles resident Linda Svanstrom, 56, who died of a drug overdose Feb. 7, 2017.

According to a health professional report critical of the standard of care Svanstrom received from her doctor and the hospital, she was seen at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital on Feb. 6, 2017, the day before she died.

Koehler’s attorney, Mark McNabola, said according to the Kane County Coroner’s toxicology report, Svanstrom died of polypharmacy with four opioids in her system: hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone and fentanyl.

McNabola said her daughter would caution Svanstrom about her opioid use.

“But she would always justify it by saying, ‘I got it from the doctor,’” McNabola said. “Patients such as [Svanstrom] manipulate the system to get pain relief. So it’s vitally important for a physician to have their antennas up and to be very careful when the prescribe repeated bouts of prescription opioids.”

Northwestern Medicine spokesman Christopher King stated in an email that the hospital does not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit stated that Svanstrom had a history of extensive history of using prescription medication because of chronic knee pain.

And though Svanstrom had survived three opioid overdoses, “Multiple emergency room physicians failed to follow the standard of care in recognizing clear patterns of addictive narcotic medication behavior, readily evident in repeated documentation in the Epic Electronic Health Record,” according to the lawsuit.

Delnor doctors did not address Svanstrom’s issues with psychiatric evaluation, addiction medicine referral or coordinated care with her primary care physician, the lawsuit stated.

Instead, the lawsuit alleged that Delnor’s doctors “worsened the patient’s addiction to narcotics by repeatedly providing narcotic prescriptions to the patient during multiple emergency room visits.”

The lawsuit also alleges that the medical practice and Ciechanowski “prescribed numerous addictive prescription medications … including opioids and benzodiazepines.”

Prior to her death, Svanstrom made approximately 100 calls to Fox Valley and Ciechanowski, seeking opioid medications, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also alleged that the doctor and his office failed to document “the frequency of narcotic refills and [did not take] appropriate action to determine why early narcotic refill requests were being sought, which clearly indicated misuse or abuse of narcotic prescriptions.”

The doctor and medical practice did not return a message seeking comment.

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