As part of a treatment plan for a medical condition, your physician may advise that you take certain medication. In addition to over-the-counter drugs, this can include prescription drugs that he or she will prescribe. Even though there is an expectation that the medicine a physician prescribes is correct and is in the correct dosage, the truth is that medication errors are one of the most prevalent types of medical malpractice.
According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, over 1.5 million people in the United States suffer the adverse effects of the medication errors made by physicians. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports this causes 700,000 emergency visits each year. It can occur to anyone seeking medical help, including emergency room patients, cancer patients and more.
Effects of medication mistakes
Medication errors can have a wide range of short-term and long-term effects on your health, including:
- Organ failure
- Long-term or permanent injury
- Allergic reactions
- Delayed medical treatments
- Dangerous drug interactions
How are medication errors commonly made?
The errors can occur at any stage of the medication process and can take place in hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies or physician’s offices. Any individual who is responsible for the prescription, administration or monitoring of medication to a patient has a duty to ensure that the medications provided are the right kind and in the right amount. If they fail in their duties, they may be held liable for the results of the medication errors. This applies to physicians, nurses, pharmacists, anesthesiologists and other health care staff.
Common examples of medication errors include:
- Medication based on an erroneous diagnosis of medical conditions
- The prescription for the wrong drug for a disease or condition
- Inaccurate ordering of the medication from the manufacturer
- Inaccurate mixing of the medication at the pharmacy
- Inaccurate packaging and/or labeling of the medication
- Ignoring a patient’s allergies
- Disregarding potential drug interaction issues
- A prescription with the wrong patient’s information
- Prescription handwriting that is illegible
- Administering too much medication to a patient
- Disregarding the weight and age of a patient
- Filling a prescription with the wrong dosage of medicine
- Failing to properly advise a patient about the proper use of the medication
Why legal representation is important
The proving a medication error by a health care professional can be very difficult. It is not unusual for the errors to occur in patients who may have multiple underlying conditions. This means the complications associated with a patient’s initial medical issues can be used to conceal the effect of a medication error.