More patients sue Yale over fentanyl diversion they say left them in excruciating pain
More patients are suing Yale over the university’s mishandling of painkillers at a fertility clinic.
A staff nurse pleaded guilty in 2021 to stealing fentanyl intended for patients undergoing surgical fertility procedures, and swapping it for saline.
Dozens of women have already sued the university.
In the new lawsuit, seven more people allege widespread failure by Yale to protect patients from drug diversion, which led to women being deprived of painkillers during invasive fertility procedures.
“Nobody on my care team or administrators at Yale … reached out to tell me about this,” said Kaitlin O’Connor, one of the plaintiffs in the new lawsuit against the Yale Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Clinic, in a statement.
“I felt betrayed,” she said.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs say Yale failed to notify patients of the Long Wharf facility that it had uncovered wrongdoing in an attempt to “run down the clock” on future lawsuits. Plaintiffs say they only understood the alleged reason for their pain after a podcast about the diversion was released.
But Yale says the new allegations, which plaintiffs say occurred at a time period prior to when the nurse admitted any wrongdoing, don’t line up with the results of a federal investigation into the opioid diversions.
“The Department of Justice conducted a thorough investigation of the former nurse’s actions,” a university spokesperson said in an email. “They concluded that the diversions took place specifically from June through October 2020.”
Upon learning of the fentanyl thefts, Yale contacted law enforcement, terminated the nurse in question, Donna Monticone, and informed impacted patients, the university said.
“Since this time, we have instituted additional measures to ensure we have the right processes, procedures and safeguards in place,” the statement reads.
In October of 2022, Yale University, on behalf of Yale Medicine and the Yale Fertility Center, agreed to pay $308,000 to resolve allegations of violations of the Controlled Substances Act.
The people filing the latest lawsuit say they discovered what allegedly happened to them after listening to the new podcast, The Retrievals, which captured the experiences of women who had turned to Yale for fertility treatment, and were subject to invasive procedures without pain control.
Beyond Yale, there is a systemic problem of ignoring women in pain, said Dr. Liza Goldman Huertas, a breastfeeding medicine physician in Stratford, Connecticut.
“These women were seeking fertility care, and what happened to them might also be viewed in the context of how we care for mothers,” she said.
Traumatic medical experiences can happen because women are often just expected to put up with the pain, Huertas said.
But if untreated, she said postpartum pain can impact breastfeeding outcomes and is a risk factor for maternal depression.
“They’re talking about breastfeeding pain but they may have horrible injury,” Huertas said.
Nationwide, she said, health care clinics need to make sure that pain for women is not normalized.
“This also goes to cultural ideas that there’s some unavoidable pain,” she said, “and that it's of … no importance, or the details are not important.”