Family of Assisted Care Resident Killed by Toxic Levels of Painkillers Files Suit

The woman died of toxic levels of morphine and hydrocodone toxicity, but family says she was never prescribed the pain meds

The family of an elderly woman who was killed after she received toxic levels of painkillers while at a suburban nursing home last year has filed suit.

Dorothy Byrd, 98, died last year, just one day after several residents at Holland Home, at 16300 Louis Ave. in South Holland, were hospitalized for severe respiratory and blood pressure problems.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said Byrd died of toxic levels of morphine and hydrocodone toxicity, combined with hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Her death was ruled a homicide.

Shortly after, two other patients hospitalized that night, 88-year-old Robert Rundin and 98-year-old Leon Krynicki, also died, but authorities said at the time further tests were needed to determine the cause of their deaths.

Tom Paris, the attorney hired by Byrd's daughter Sandra Byrd-Peterson, says the patients were never prescribed morphine.

“Essentially, seven people in the overnight hours of Feb. 2 going on to Feb. 3 were given morphine,” he said. “None of those people had prescriptions.”

At the time, Holland Home’s CEO said the company was continuing to cooperate closely with local law enforcement’s ongoing investigation, but now Byrd-Peterson and her attorney say that investigation has stalled.

“I think they should be doing more than cooperating at this point given that seven of their residents were affected. Certainly one died because of this,” he said. “Frankly if South Holland is not going to move forward with their investigation, I will do so.”

Byrd-Peterson said she’s still haunted by her mother’s death, and how such a thing could happen in a place she had hoped would take care of her.

“I don’t know, and that’s part of the difficulty in trying to come to terms with my mother’s death,” she said. “I don’t have any answers. The questions are myriad. I just don’t know.”

Holland House said in a statement Friday that while it cannot comment on pending litigation, “the enduring priority has been to ensure the safety and well-being of the residents living at Holland Home.”

“From the beginning, we have fully cooperated with investigating authorities and have taken additional measures to ensure patient safety remains a top priority,” the company said.  

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