When you are sick or suffer from an injury, you go to a hospital and see a doctor in hopes they’ll prescribe you medication to help you get better. Your main concern is your health, but people should also be cautious of medication errors as a result of medical malpractice or medical negligence that could cause devastating side effects. Our Cleveland medication and prescription errors lawyers have experience in handling these claims.
Take a second to imagine that you’ve broken your collarbone. You see a medical professional who prescribes you 20mg of morphine for your pain. Your next stop is the pharmacy where they accidentally dispense 200mg of morphine for you because they couldn’t read the illegible prescription writing. That night you take one pill, but the wrong dosage causes you to stop breathing. The lack of oxygen to your brain causes brain damage. It’s not the first or last medication error that will catastrophically change someone’s life.
Unfortunately, prescription drug mistakes are a major public safety problem in the United States. According to data provided by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), more than 1.5 million patients are harmed by preventable drug errors every year. While some medication errors are thankfully minor, many others have devastating, and even deadly, consequences. A prescription error is defined as, “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer.”
At Tittle & Perlmuter, our Cleveland medical malpractice attorneys have the skills and legal knowledge needed to handle complex medication and prescription drug error claims. If you or a family member was injured by a medication-related mistake, please contact our law firm for immediate legal assistance.
Medication and prescription drug errors happen for many different reasons. In some cases, doctors write prescriptions for the wrong medicine, a medication that is contraindicated or just prescribe the incorrect dosage. In other cases, pharmacists fail to fill the prescription carefully. To protect the health and safety of patients, both doctors and pharmacists must take care to avoid serious errors.
Yet, in far too many cases, the established systems that ensure that powerful medication is properly prescribed and ordered are not used. Physicians and pharmacists get sloppy; they fail to double check to ensure that patients are actually getting the right medication for their current condition because he or she is too busy. An FDA study found, “the most common error involving medications was related to administration of an improper dose of medicine, accounting for 41% of fatal medication errors.”
There are certain drugs commonly involved in medication errors. These medications include:
Unfortunately, a majority of medication errors are caused by human mistakes, which can come from fatigue, choosing the wrong drug option, or entering incorrect patient information. The most common errors are:
There are five aspects that a doctor needs to make sure are correct when giving out a prescription. The five rights of safe medication use are:
Medical professionals don’t always give the correct prescriptions to patients, despite their best intentions. System errors can affect a prescription via inadequate staffing, illegible handwritten orders, doses that seem to have trailing zeroes, or similar drug errors. Additionally, communication barriers are another aspect contributing to medication and pharmaceutical mistakes. Doctors can make one of the following mistakes, making it harder for a pharmacist to dispense the correct prescription: having illegible handwriting, including confusing abbreviations, giving a verbal order only, ordering a drug with an ambiguous name, or providing the wrong information in a fax or electronic prescription.
There are multiple times when a prescription can get mixed up. This is why it is critical that patients ask questions about the medication they’re being prescribed.
A young woman is on her way to work, driving on the highway, when out of nowhere a car merges into her lane and causes an accident. She is rushed to the hospital because she is bleeding, and in order for her to become stable, the bleeding needs to stop. Once at the hospital, a doctor orders her to receive the drug “Hespan” because it will help stop the active bleeding. Another medical professional accidentally grabs the drug “Heparin” instead, which is a blood thinner. The young woman hemorrhages due to a great loss of blood and unfortunately dies. Catastrophic and even fatal injuries occur when mistaking a drug because of a similar name.
Our Cleveland attorneys have handled many cases where a physician was at fault for a medication error that was avoidable. Common medication mistakes made by medical professionals include:
Physicians should complete a medication reconciliation each time there is a change in a patient’s treatment. A medication reconciliation is when a health care provider compares all of the medication orders to all of the medications that the patient currently takes. This will help prevent incorrect medications or dosages from being prescribed, or prevent harmful drug interactions. A medication reconciliation should be completed anytime a patient experiences a change in hospital setting, change in the medical professional they’re seeing, or change in the level of care they are receiving.
A middle-aged man receives a prescription from his doctor for Coumadin, also called Warfarin, due to his chronic atrial fibrillation (a-fib). His doctor had recently doubled his dose, meaning the man should take two pills, instead of one. The pharmacist then misread the instructions and dispensed the pills with double strength, along with writing on the bottle that the man should take two pills instead of one. In other words, the man’ Coumadin dosing was quadrupled. Then, the prescribing doctor did not properly monitor the man’s blood level of anticoagulation (how thin the blood is). As a result, the man died from a brain hemorrhage as a direct result of a Coumadin overdose.
Pharmacists are required to ensure people get the right medication and dosage, as well as check that a new medication will not react badly with another drug the person is already taking. Common pharmaceutical errors made at a pharmacy include:
Medication errors are preventable at different levels, yet mistakes still happen. Both physicians and pharmacists mess up medication orders for patients due to lack of knowledge, a lapse in memory, or just being overworked, among many other reasons. Many things can influence a medication error, including: lack of training, lack of drug or patient knowledge, being overworked, fatigue, dealing with a physical or emotional health issue or having poor communication. Despite these outside factors, physicians and pharmacists should do everything they can to ensure their patients are safe with the medications they prescribe and dispense. Our skilled Cleveland lawyers could determine if a pharmacist is at fault in a prescription mistake case.
While physicians and pharmacists have a legal duty to avoid making any dangerous errors, patients should also take proactive measures to protect their own well-being. To help ensure that medication and pharmaceutical mistakes are prevented, you should consider doing the following four things:
There is no such thing as a stupid question, especially when it comes to the medication you are taking. It is important to know what you are putting in your body and how it will affect you. The questions you should ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist are:
Medication and prescription drug errors are a form of medical malpractice. As with other types of medical malpractice, these errors can cause serious damage to the victims. A patient who has been a victim of medical malpractice is entitled to compensation for the full extent of their damages. Unfortunately, in practice, recovering fair compensation can be challenging. Large insurance companies typically defend both physicians and pharmacists. These insurers work aggressively to try to limit the value of settlement offers. Our Cleveland medication and prescription error lawyers help patients fight back. We can help you seek financial recovery for:
At Tittle & Perlmuter, our Cleveland medication and prescription errors lawyers have extensive experience handling claims involving medication and prescription errors. If a doctor prescribed you the wrong medication or a pharmacist dispensed the wrong medication, that is medical negligence. If you have any questions about what medical malpractice is and if you’ve experienced it, download our Medical Malpractice Guide. This guide will help you understand what steps you should take next. Tittle & Perlmuter is here to help you when you are ready.
To schedule your free case evaluation, please call our Cleveland office today or fill out our online contact form. Our client-focused firm offers evening and weekend appointments to fit your busy schedule and attorneys can also come to you.