Medication and Prescription Errors
At least one person dies every day in the U.S. because of a medication error, according to the Food and Drug Administration. A million more people suffer non-fatal injuries annually because of medication errors. Despite the prevalence of medication and prescription errors and the significant harm they cause, these mistakes could be greatly reduced if doctors, nurses and hospitals would take just a few simple steps to prevent them. Until they do, they can and should be held liable for medical malpractice. Malpractice lawsuits not only compensate the people who have been harmed by medication errors; they can be the engine that drives change at a hospital, clinic, doctor’s office or pharmacy.
Bertling Law Group advocates for patients harmed by medication and prescription errors and other forms of medical malpractice. You might only suspect that a medication error worsened your condition or caused a separate injury, or you might have no idea what went wrong, only that you got worse instead of better. Our seasoned medical malpractice attorneys know how to investigate cases of potential medical negligence and figure out what happened. If your injury was caused by a doctor’s, nurse’s, hospital’s or pharmacist’s mistake, we’ll take them to task and hold them accountable for the damage caused. Call our office for a free consultation if you believe you may have been harmed by a medication or prescription error at a California hospital or pharmacy, or at a VA medical center or outpatient clinic or military hospital or clinic nationwide.
Why Do Medication and Prescription Errors Occur?
Some medications are classified as high-alert medications because serious injury or death is likely to occur if they are misused. Some well-known high-alert medications include opioids, insulin and anticoagulants. Regardless of whether a medication is high-alert or not, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and hospitals have a duty to use care when prescribing, filling and administering medications. Even when they don’t cause additional serious injuries or death, medication errors can keep the patient from being treated for an important condition.
Some of the leading medication and prescriptions errors include:
- Prescribing the wrong medication
- Prescribing the wrong dosage
- Failing to consider the patient’s medical history, including drug allergies and other medications they are taking
- Filling a prescription with the wrong medication
- Filling a prescription with the wrong dosage
- Filling a prescription with the wrong form of the medicine
- Printing erroneous information on the label regarding how to take the medicine
- Administering the wrong drug to a patient
- Administering the wrong dosage
- Delivering medication in the wrong format, such as giving an intravenous injection when intramuscular is called for
- Giving medicine to the wrong patient
- Using a defective or malfunctioning drug delivery device such as a pain pump or insulin pen that delivers too much or too little of the medication
- Failing to warn the patient about potential side effects of the medication
- Failing to monitor a hospital patient for changes in condition after medicine delivery
How Can Medication and Prescription Errors Be Avoided?
Abundant research has concluded that as much as 90% of all medication and prescription errors could be avoided. This could be done if hospitals would implement simple steps and protocols for their staff, but they simply don’t bother. While the fault may ultimately lie with the doctor, nurse or hospital pharmacist, hospitals themselves can be held liable for failing to properly train and supervise their staff to avoid preventable mistakes.
Some simple steps hospitals could take to prevent medication and prescription errors include:
- Making sure patients’ charts are correct and kept up-to-date
- Training staff to avoid distractions while they are selecting, filling or administering medications
- Improving communication between doctors and nurses
- Improving handwriting on prescriptions or eliminating handwritten prescriptions altogether
- Using easy to read labels on packaging, shelves and storage bins
- Double-checking the dosage, especially when the dose includes zeroes and decimals
- Double-checking the dosage whenever transcribing between different dosing units such as standard and metric
- Verifying the patient’s identity and prescription before giving the medication
- Checking to see that the description of the medication on the label matches the medication
- Eliminating the use of abbreviations that are prone to causing errors
Many medications have similar-sounding names (or colors or shapes) yet are prescribed for completely different purposes. This fact is well-known to any medical professional who regularly works with medications and should put them on notice regarding how easily errors can occur. There’s no excuse for making a simple or foolish mistake when a patient’s health is on the line.
Get Help With Injuries Caused by Medication and Prescription Errors in California
If you believe that you or a loved one may have been harmed by a medication or prescription error in a hospital in California or at a VA medical center or military hospital or clinic nationwide, call Bertling Law Group at 844-295-7558 for a free consultation. We’ll help you figure out what went wrong and help you get the care and compensation you need and deserve. There’s no fee if we don’t get compensation for you.