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Hospital Reaches Settlement in Overdose Death

August 23, 1995

BOSTON (AP) _ The husband of newspaper columnist Betsy Lehman, who died after receiving a drug overdose at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, has settled his wrongful death lawsuit and will donate part of the money to the prestigious cancer center.

``I want Betsy’s name linked with the search for a cure, not with the terrible circumstances of her death,″ Robert Distel said in a statement read by his lawyer.

Lawyer Michael Mone said Distel planned ``a large contribution″ to the hospital, where he works as a scientist, to establish a breast cancer research fellowship in memory of Lehman.

Lehman, 39, a health columnist at The Boston Globe, died Dec. 3, after receiving an overdose of cyclophosphamide and four times the maximum safe dose of another drug meant to shield her from the side-effects of chemotherapy for breast cancer.

The hospital confirmed late Wednesday that a settlement had been reached. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Christopher T. Walsh, hospital president, said ``no amount of money can restore Betsy Lehman to her husband and daughters.″ But he said the settlement would help ``bring closure to the legal aspects of this matter in a manner that is humane, just and satisfactory to all parties.″

Lehman was given lethal overdoses for four days. At least a dozen doctors, nurses and pharmacists overlooked the error though another woman had suffered severe heart damage from the same combination of drugs two days earlier. The mistake was not discovered until Feb. 13, after clerks went through the records.

The hospital also is negotiating a settlement of a lawsuit brought by the second cyclophosphamide overdose victim, who survived.

The overdoses led to the resignation of several top hospital administrators. Investigators found that nurses, doctors and pharmacists had made dozens of mistakes involving patients, though the most recent reports show that the hospital had corrected the problems.

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