- How Medication Errors Affect Patients?
- Avoiding Medication Errors
- Damages Available in a Medication Error Case
- Responsibility for a Medication Error
- Causes of Medication Errors
- Proving a Medication Error
- Length of Time to File a Claim
- Negotiating a Settlement
- Case Settlement or Court Verdict?
- Reporting Medication Errors
How Medication Errors Affect Patients?
Receiving a medication that isn’t right for you can have devastating consequences. A study of hospitalized patients reviewed 592 hospital admissions and 7,286 medication orders and found that 60 percent contained at least one prescribing or transcribing error.
Of the admitted patients, 14.8 percent experienced preventable adverse drug events. Some 92 patients experienced temporary harm, two cases were life-threatening, and one was fatal.
According to the FDA, more than 100,000 people report suspected medication errors each year. While some medication errors result in only temporary side effects, others can be serious.
Severe complications from a prescription mistake include:
- Life-threatening situation
- Congenital disabilities
The FDA has taken steps to minimize medication errors, including developing a barcode system for hospitalized patients who receive medication and labeling rules for over-the-counter and prescription drugs. However, mistakes still happen. When they do, the effects can be devastating.
If you are experiencing adverse effects from a medication error, contact a medical malpractice lawyer for assistance.
Avoiding Medication Errors
Between a medical professional’s decision to provide a patient with a certain prescription and the patient actually taking the medication, a number of steps occur that are ripe for potential errors.
- A medical professional ordering a prescription for a patient must choose the right medication and specify the correct dosage.
- When orders are transcribed by administrative staff in a paper-based ordering system, the medical professional’s request must be interpreted correctly.
- A pharmacist must be vigilant for possible drug interactions and an individual patient’s allergies, and the correct medication must be dispensed in the right form and quantity.
- The correct medication must be given to a patient at the right time. In a hospital, for instance, a nurse typically gives medications.
It’s likely that most medication errors happen at the prescription and transcription phases, but errors also occur in inpatient and outpatient healthcare settings.
In addition, patients are responsible for some medication errors as well. The National Institutes of Health advises that patients can help prevent errors by:
- Keeping an up-to-date list of all the medications they take and understanding the correct dosages. The list should include any vitamins, supplements, herbal remedies and over-the-counter medications, and the list should be provided to a patient’s physician at every visit.
- Using extreme caution when giving medications to children.
- Reading labels and closely following all listed directions.
- Avoiding taking medications prescribed to someone else.
- Asking questions of doctors and pharmacists as necessary, including why a medication is being prescribed, what the common side effects are and what to do if an adverse reaction occurs.
Damages Available in a Medication Error Case
A medical malpractice lawyer can help you recover compensation for injuries sustained due to a medication error. Available damages include money for:
The medical consequences of a pharmaceutical error may be severe or life-threatening. Costs for medical treatment, surgery, ambulance services, therapy, and other services are recoverable. A medical malpractice lawyer can identify your past and anticipated costs associated with the medication error with assistance from your physician.
Lost Wages/Future Income
Many individuals need time off work to recover from injuries sustained due to medication errors. In severe cases, they cannot work at their usual capacity for an extended period. A medical malpractice attorney can collaborate with you and your doctor to determine the costs associated with lost wages and future income.
Some individuals experience mental anguish, pain and suffering, and severe anxiety due to medication mistakes. Medication error cases often recover damages related to emotional issues that arise in patients following a medical oversight. Emotional damages help patients move past their pain and get back on their feet.
In some cases, medication errors are fatal. Family members can file a wrongful death case if an individual dies from a medication mistake. Damages available include loss of consortium, mental pain and anguish, and loss of parental guidance.
Responsibility for a Medication Error
While most people immediately think the doctor must be the person held responsible for a medication error, many professionals participate in administering medications.
Medical professionals and entities that play a role in medication errors include:
- Nurses, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners
- Pharmacy technicians
- Emergency room personnel
- Healthcare facilities, such as hospitals or urgent care centers
- Pharmaceutical companies
In some situations, more than one individual may be responsible for the medication error mistake. For example, if you were prescribed the wrong drug by a doctor and a pharmacy technician gave you the medicine as prescribed, both parties may be responsible.
A medical malpractice lawyer can sort out the facts of your case and determine the parties involved in the medication error.
Causes of Medication Errors
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality outlines a number of possible medication errors:
- Skipped doses.
- Incorrect administration technique.
- Duplicate medication.
- Unreadable order.
- Failure of equipment needed in administering a drug.
- Insufficient monitoring.
- Errors in preparation.
- Drug interactions.
According to the FDA, medication errors occur for many reasons. Poorly designed packaging or instructions, confusion about dosing, miscommunication of prescription orders and other factors can play a role. In many cases, a medication error occurs because of the interaction of several complex factors.
An example is the prescription cough medication Tussionex. The drug’s main ingredient, the narcotic Hydrocodone, can cause serious breathing issues when too much of the medication is administered at once or when it is administered more frequently than recommended. The drug is not to be used in children younger than 6.
But in some cases, medical professionals have prescribed Tussionex for children younger than 6 and for more frequent doses than the label indicates. In addition, some patients have taken too much due to misunderstanding the directions or using inaccurate devices for measuring.
Another cause of medication errors the FDA cites is similarly named drugs. Although the agency’s Division of Medication Error Prevention and Analysis works with drug manufacturers to avoid drugs with similar names, some sources of error and confusion do slip through the process.
According to Mayo Clinic, medication errors occur in hospitals, pharmacies, senior living communities, individuals’ private homes and doctors’ offices. The most common causes include poor communication both among medical professionals and between patients and medical care providers along with names and abbreviations that sound too similar.
Proving a Medication Error
You will need a qualified medical malpractice attorney to establish the facts of your case and prove that a medication error caused your injury.
To do so, your lawyer will first show that there was a professional relationship between you and the medical professional and that they owed you a standard of care. This means they had to treat you with the same care provided to other patients by any reasonable person in the medical field.
Next, the error must have resulted in an injury. If the medication prescribed to you had only temporary, minor effects, a lawsuit is unlikely to be successful. The patient must show that they incurred damage due to the medication error, such as additional medical treatments.
To support your lawsuit, your medical malpractice attorney will collect documentation related to the medication error, including copies of the prescription, your medical history, and details of the adverse effects you suffered. In some cases, medical professionals will require expert testimony to substantiate your claims.
Medical malpractice cases are often complex and time-consuming. They require sharp negotiation skills, knowledge of the medical field, and experience navigating New York medication error laws.
Don’t leave your case up to chance. Contact a medical malpractice attorney for assistance.
Length of Time to File a Claim
The state of New York allows individuals who have experienced an injury due to a medication error to file a claim up to two years and six months following the mistake. However, just because you have time to file doesn’t mean you should wait.
Your medical malpractice attorney will need time to assemble evidence, speak to medical professionals, and consult with experts.
The passage of time often leads to a gradual erosion of memories surrounding a case. It can also degrade the credibility of the evidence. If you’ve experienced a medication error that resulted in injury, schedule a consultation with a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.
Negotiating a Settlement
The insurance company of your medical provider is not your friend. It's in their best interests to settle a case for a minimum amount to protect their bottom line. Often, the first settlement offered by an insurance company doesn't provide enough compensation for injuries sustained from a medication error
For optimal results, it's best to work with a qualified medical malpractice attorney. A lawyer can negotiate a fair settlement that compensates you for your injuries.
Case Settlement or Court Verdict?
Most medication error cases settle out of court between the patient and the defendant’s insurance company. However, if both parties can’t agree, the case will end up in court. Settled claims may be resolved in a few months, while court cases can take a year or more to finalize.
Your medical malpractice lawyer can navigate your case every step of the way, whether it resolves through a satisfactory settlement or ends up in a courtroom.
Reporting Medication Errors
FDA encourages reporting of medication errors to its MedWatch service. To track medication errors, the agency works closely with a number of partners, including the Institute for Safe Medication Practices and the U.S. Pharmacopeia. Reports received through either of those organizations automatically are sent to MedWatch. In a cooperative effort, the groups work to monitor and evaluate errors and to provide the public with information for avoiding potentially harmful medication mistakes.
Have You Suffered Harm Because of a Medication Error?
If you’ve experienced a medication error, you may not know, because the signs and symptoms are not always clear. If you feel that you’ve had an allergic reaction to a drug or suffered any other adverse event, it’s wise to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
For a free consultation, please contact Ivan Diamond today.
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