NASHVILLE, TN – At midnight, patient Eric Stephens was made “NPO after midnight.” After one hour, patient complained to his nurses and physicians, stating that he was “starving to death, no joke.” His medical team assured him he would be fine. Unfortunately at 2 AM, only one hour later, the patient actually died. No joke indeed. Suspected cause: death by starvation.
“I’m shocked,” said nurse practitioner Stephanie Ericsson. “We’re so used to hearing patients say they’re saying they’re starving to death, even though it’s only been a few hours being NPO. I can understand if it’s afternoon time and you’re still NPO. But this? Wow.”
Nashville Medical Center is in mourning after this first known NPO-related death by starvation. Health care providers are hesitant to make patients NPO any more. Internal medicine physician Erica Steves is shaken to her core. “Usually I poo-poo it aside; they’re not really starving to death. This case makes you really wonder.”
It is unclear how Stephens died so quickly. One theory is that he went into a compensatory super catabolic state in which he depleted all glycogen, protein, and fat stores within 2 hours, essentially digesting himself to death. Another more plausible theory is that he succumbed to status dramaticus.
So what is the lesson going forward?
“I don’t know, I really don’t know,” said gastroenterologist Erick Stephenson. “I spoke with my colleagues – internists, surgeons, radiologists, nutritionists – anyone who has made a patient NPO. Next time a patient says ‘I’m starving to death,’ even if they haven’t eaten in 2 hours, I think we have no choice but to feed them.”