Fentanyl overdose during routine endoscopy blamed for death of Wisconsin father of two

by Jim Orr

Last year, Travis Disch went to St. Mary’s and Dean Outpatient Center in Madison, Wisconsin, for a routine upper endoscopy to determine the cause of swallowing problems. During the procedure, nurses allegedly gave him more than two times the amount of sedation drugs he should have received, including the drugs midazolam and fentanyl. Disch died and an autopsy by a St. Mary’s doctor found no cause of death other than brain injury from a lack of oxygen during the procedure. Disch was a 37-year-old and the father of two children.

His wife has filed a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit against St. Mary’s and Dean. The suit alleges that Disch died from an irreversible brain injury due to a lack of oxygen during the endoscopy as a result being given far too much sedation medication and improperly monitored during the endoscopy procedure.

A doctor ordered 50 micrograms of fentanyl and 2 milligrams of midazolam to be given initially, with more as needed, according the lawsuit. However, a nurse gave Disch 100 micrograms of fentanyl and 5 milligrams of midazolam initially, and then, over the next several minutes, gave him another 50 micrograms of fentanyl and another 3 milligram of midazolam, according the allegations in the suit.

The lawsuit also alleges that the hospital’s monitoring equipment allegedly failed to record his oxygenation levels or heart rate for 15 minutes or more and nurses ignored Disch’s skin becoming mottled, a sign of oxygen deprivation. Disch suffered an irreversible brain injury during the procedure, and died less than a week later after his family removed life support.

Disch’s wife has filed suit on behalf of herself and Disch’s two daughters, ages 6 and 9. In addition, the suit seeks damages for Travis Disch’s estate for the pain and suffering during the procedure, in which patients are under conscious sedation.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson are experts at fighting for victims of fentanyl and other painkiller overdoses

Heygood, Orr & Pearson has successfully prosecuted more cases involving deaths due to fentanyl products than all the other firms in the country combined. In the very first jury trial by the lawyers of Heygood, Orr & Pearson against makers of a fentanyl transdermal pain patch, a Florida jury awarded a $5.5 million verdict to the family of a man who died while wearing a pain patch sold under the brand name Duragesic.

More recently, Heygood, Orr & Pearson obtained a $16 million verdict for the family of a Cicero, Illinois woman who died while wearing a Duragesic fentanyl patch. That verdict was upheld on appeal, resulting in a payment of more than $21 million.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson has spent years studying fentanyl, its uses and its misuses. They have deposed hundreds of doctors, scientists and experts on the subject of fentanyl products. Fatal mistakes the firm has seen doctors commit in prescribing the pain patch include:

  • Overestimating the initial dose of fentanyl patches
  • Prescribing them for acute or post operative pain
  • Prescribing fentanyl patches to opioid naïve patients
  • Prescribing the pain patch to patients with significant pulmonary problems
  • Prescribing fentanyl at the same time as other CNS depressants

If you or a loved one has experienced the tragedy of losing a family member as a result of fentanyl, you and your family deserve answers to your questions. If the loss was as a result of a prescribing error, you have the right to demand that the responsible healthcare provider be held accountable.

Drug deaths in America now outnumber traffic fatalities. Overdoses of prescription painkillers (opioid or narcotic pain relievers) have more than tripled in the past 20 years, killing more than 15,500 people in the United States in 2009 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fentanyl is not the only potent drug drawing criticism. Prescription drugs linked to causing the most deaths include:

  • Opioids (painkillers) such hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (OxyContin)
  • Benzodiazepines (central nervous system depressants used to induce sleep and treat anxiety) such as Alprazolam (Xanax), Diazepam (Valium)
  • Amphetamines (central nervous system stimulants used to treat ADHD and similar disorders) such as Adderal, Ridalin, and Concentra

Sometimes doctors prescribe these powerful painkillers in dosages that are too high and sometimes doctors prescribe them with other drugs that can cause dangerous drug interactions. When doctors fail to follow established protocols for prescribing these drugs, drug abuse, addiction, tolerance, or overdose may be the result. The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson are committed to helping patients and their families who have been affected by doctors who irresponsibly prescribe opioid painkillers and other potentially deadly drugs to their patients.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson has represented numerous patients who have suffered complications from excessive painkiller prescriptions by a doctor or hospital. Partners Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson are all board certified in Personal Injury Trial Law* and have been voted by their peers as Super Lawyers in the state of Texas for several years in a row.**

For more information about a fentanyl or opioid painkiller lawsuit and to find out if you qualify to file a case, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form located on this site.


* Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

** Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2014.

by Jim Orr

Jim Orr is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P focusing on business and personal injury litigation. Jim was selected multiple times to the Super Lawyers List and has tried 70+ cases to verdict.