Mom wants answers in daughter’s morphine overdose
It didn't take long for the pathologist at the Harris County medical
examiner's office to determine what killed Jadalyn Diana Elizabeth
The 6-year-old girl with pink and blue barrettes in her braided hair
had arrived at the morgue on a white sheet in a white body bag. She was
wearing pink underwear. A blue shirt had been cut off her body.
There were signs of a desperate fight to save her life: a breathing
tube was down her throat, secured by a pink foam collar; defibrillator
pads were attached to her small chest; she was punctured with catheters
and intravenous needles; she had an identification tag on her left big
There were no signs of injury to her well-developed, well nourished
body. All her internal organs were normal and free of trauma.
But blood and toxicology tests soon revealed that Jadalyn Williams, a
little girl full of life who loved singing and dancing, had died from a
massive overdose of morphine.
What took a little longer to determine was how and why.
Four days before she died at 6:55 a.m. on April, 3, 2012, Jadalyn had
been released from Texas Children's Hospital. She'd spent a week there
being treated for severe pain in her legs caused by sickle cell anemia, a
disease she had lived with since birth.
She left the hospital with a doctor's prescription for morphine sulfate, to be administered orally for pain as needed.
Jadalyn never woke up
Â TODD SPOTH PHOTOGRAPHY, LLC
The day before she died, a Monday, Jadalyn's mother, Simone Allen,
went to her usual pharmacy, the Cullen Care Pharmacy on Blythewood in
the Third Ward, to fill the prescription. She had been going there for
years without a problem. It was in the same building as Jadalyn's
doctor. It was convenient and dependable.
That night, Allen says, Jadalyn complained her legs were hurting.
About 7 p.m., per the instructions on the bottle, Allen pulled 7.5
milliliters of morphine solution into an oral syringe and gave it to
Jadalyn. A couple of hours later, the girl became drowsy, which was
normal, and her mother tucked her into bed.
She never woke up, and it was months before Simone Allen conclusively found out why.
In November, the medical examiner concluded that Jadalyn's death was
an accident, and that she died because Cullen Care Pharmacy had mixed
the morphine at a concentration 10 times stronger than prescribed by the
A few weeks ago, 18 months after she buried Jadalyn, Allen filed a
medical malpractice lawsuit against Cullen Care Pharmacy, alleging its
negligence killed her daughter.
Allen knows no one at the pharmacy intended to harm Jadalyn. It was a
mistake, an accident, human error, whatever. But she also knows that
without the lawsuit - which under tort-reformed Texas law, according to
her lawyer, cannot reap more than $250,000 in damages - nobody would
ever be held accountable for her death.
And, above all, she says, she's hoping the lawsuit will answer the
myriad questions she still has about her daughter's death and perhaps
ensure that it doesn't happen to someone else.
We all make mistakes, even, God forbid, ones with fatal consequences.
And when that happens we quite often demand that the person who made
the mistake answer for it.
Day in court coming
After it had been determined that Jadalyn died of a morphine
overdose, Allen received a visit from a Houston Police Department
homicide detective, there to see if perhaps she had made a mistake. We
can assume that if she had, she likely would have been held accountable.
But because the mistake that killed Jadalyn is ruled an accident, no
accountability was demanded of the pharmacy. Had Simone Allen not filed a
lawsuit, that presumably would have been the end of it. Jadalyn's death
would have amounted to no more than an "oops."
Staff at Cullen Care Pharmacy hung up on me three times when I called
to ask them to account for their mistake - because make no bones about
it, that's what it was - so we will have to wait until they have their
day in court to find out.
Allen will be waiting along with us.
"I feel like this is something that shouldn't be swept under the
rug," she told me. "I felt that I needed to find out what happened. I