Medical malpractice claims can occur for a wide variety of situations. They can be based on different actions committed by a healthcare provider, but these types of lawsuits will always boil down to whether or not medical negligence occurred.
Any part of a patient’s care can be susceptible to negligent actions or inaction by a medical professional. This can lead to the patient suffering unnecessary harm as a result. For example, prescription medication errors are very common in medical malpractice claims.
Prescription errors result in 28,000 deaths yearly in Canada. It’s likely that this issue is more pervasive because some cases will go undocumented.
Prescription errors can result in devastating and even fatal consequences for patients. For those who have been the victim of a prescription error, you might be able to seek compensation for the damages through a medical malpractice claim.
What is a prescription drug error?
There are a few types of prescription drug errors that can occur. The most common ones include:
- Giving the wrong medication to a patient;
- Administering the wrong dosage of medication (for example, too much or too little medication);
- Not labelling the medication correctly;
- Prescribing the patient a medication that they are allergic to;
- Prescribing the patient a medication that has negative interactions with other medications the patient is taking; and
- Failing to warn the patient of the side effects of the medication.
Why do medication errors happen?
Errors with medication are largely preventable, but they occur when the person in charge of a patient’s health care, treatment, or prescription behaves in a negligent manner. The most common ways that prescription errors occur include being distracted, carelessness, fatigue, lack of preparedness, or failure to communicate, to name a few.
Ordering error is one of the most common causes of prescription mistakes, resulting in 50% of harmful prescription error cases. Ordering errors can be the result of a physician prescribing or writing down the incorrect drug, dose, route, or frequency. Unnoticed errors can lead to a patient receiving the incorrect drug or instructions, which can cause serious harm.
Who is liable for prescription drug errors?
Essentially, anyone who actively participates along the chain of prescribing or administering medication can be held liable for prescription drug errors. This can include doctors, nurses, hospitals, the pharmacy department in the hospital, pharmacists, and even the pharmaceutical manufacturer.
Both physicians and nurses can be held liable for prescribing and/or administering the wrong medication. They might simply make an error about what medication or dosage to prescribe. It can be easy to give the wrong amount of medication. For example, if any of your health care providers in the medication chain misses or misplaces a decimal point, then the patient could be administered too much or too little medication.
Different medications also need to be administered in different ways. For instance, they might need to be given a shot in a certain place, but the nurse might do it in the wrong area of the body.
Physicians and nurses can be held liable even if something like bad handwriting causes harm to a patient. The handwriting on a prescription can be a serious matter. If a pharmacist misreads the prescription, then the patient might receive the wrong medication and whoever wrote the prescription will be held liable. Plus, the pharmacist could also be held liable for failing to verify what the prescription says.
Medications may also be mislabeled, either before they leave the manufacturer or at the pharmacy. If medication is mislabeled, then the patient can receive the wrong one or the wrong dosage. If the manufacturer mislabels the medication, it can result in a product liability lawsuit. Or, if a pharmacist mislabels the medication, it can lead to a legitimate medical malpractice case.
In situations where harmful medication is prescribed (for example, allergies and interaction), this is typically the fault of the pharmacist. It’s usually a pharmacist’s responsibility to keep track of a patient’s allergies and the medications they are taking in order to prevent harmful interactions between different medications.
This is a good reason to always use the same pharmacy to get all of your prescriptions. This way, your pharmacist will be familiar with all of your prescription records and can advise you or your doctor if your medications conflict with each other.
Warning patients of the side effects of medication can be the job of the doctor or nurse who prescribed it, as well as the pharmacist. Patients need to know the common side effects of medications, and what foods or activities to avoid while taking a certain medication. You should also always ask your doctor about your medication’s side effects.
Prescription Drug Error Lawsuits
Preventable prescription drug errors can lead to injury, illness, or adverse reaction for a patient. It can also set back a patient’s treatment and recovery plan. In severe cases, it can cause wrongful patient death.
If a prescribing physician does something that a reasonable individual would not have done under the same circumstances, then an injured patient can have grounds for a lawsuit. The party who is guilty of negligence can be held legally responsible for the patient’s damages.
A medical malpractice lawsuit for a prescription drug error can have one or more negligent parties accountable for a patient’s damages. A patient can receive payment for their physical pain, emotional distress, medical bills, lost wages, wrongful death damages, or other losses in a successful malpractice lawsuit.
Sommers Roth & Elmaleh are your trusted prescription error lawyers. If you or a loved one are being negatively affected by a prescription drug error, call Sommers Roth & Elmaleh at 416-961-1212.
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