What Are Legal Consequences of Medication Errors?

consequences of medication errors

There are thousands upon thousands of prescription drugs on the market today, as well as many over-the-counter health supplements. Because of the vast array of alternatives available to customers in 2021 for treating their medical issues, errors in the administration and management of these drugs do occur. The medical and legal consequences of medication errors have the potential to be severe. 

Prescription medication mistakes vary in kind and degree, but they are frequently the consequence of a medical practitioner’s carelessness. Patients are often in grave danger as a result of such neglect, whether it is due to hostility or, more frequently, a simple blunder. In some situations, this may just cause little pain, but in others, the repercussions of a mistake can be considerably more serious. One study estimates that medication mistakes kill 7,000 to 9,000 people in the United States each year. To ensure that you receive appropriate compensation for any consequences of medication errors that you encounter, contact Curcio Law Offices. Call us today at 312-321-1111 for a free consultation.

What Is a Prescription Medication Error?

Between the time a doctor prescribes a medicine and the time the patient takes it, prescription medication mistakes can occur. The following are the most frequent.

  • Giving the wrong medicine to a patient. The doctor prescribes the wrong drug, or the pharmacist incorrectly fills the prescription (such as one with a similar name).
  • Giving a patient the incorrect medicine dose. The dosage recommendations are either too strong or too little, rendering the therapy useless or resulting in significant adverse effects (including an overdose).
  • Prescribing a drug that has a detrimental interaction with another medication the patient takes. They administer the medicine without first learning about the patient’s medical history or other drugs. Then, the patient suffers a significant interaction between the two medications.
  • Medication mislabeling. The dose amount is sometimes right, but the directions for taking the drug aren’t. They supply the right dosage, but they instruct the patient to take the medicine twice daily rather than once daily.
  • Not informing the patient about the potential negative effects or allergic reactions. If a patient is sensitive to a specific component in a medicine, it might induce an allergic response. Physicians and pharmacists must talk with patients, check their medical histories, and verify that the drug provided will not cause them damage.

Who Could Be Liable for Prescription Medication Errors?

Now that you know how pharmaceutical mistakes happen, the next step is to figure out who could be to blame for the mishaps. Depending on the facts of the case, many parties or a single person may hold responsibility for any harm caused by drug mistakes. The following people might be defendants in a case.

Medical Professionals

Typically, the physician who ordered the medicine or the nurse who gave it are the primary targets in a pharmaceutical injury case. Doctors and nurses must not only guarantee that they prescribe the correct prescription. They must also ensure that they administer the correct dose.

When prescribing, a doctor must take care to ensure that they are writing the correct medicine, dose, and directions so that the pharmacist can print the correct information on the patient’s label.

When providing drugs recommended by a doctor, a nurse must double-check the information and ensure that they are giving the correct medication and dose. Nurses are also a supplementary line of defense. Any time a nurse suspects a doctor wrote a prescription incorrectly, they should challenge the physician’s instructions.

Furthermore, whether a patient gets medicine in the office or at a hospital, the staff on duty must keep an eye on him or her for any negative responses. Even if the proper prescription is provided, failing to monitor the patient is still carelessness.

Pharmacy Staff or Pharmacists

When pharmaceutical mistakes occur at their stage of the distribution chain, pharmacists and their technicians are equally responsible. They must not only guarantee that a patient’s prescription is filled with the correct drug and dose, but they must also double-check every time a prescription is provided to them.

Hospitals

Medical facilities, clinics, outpatient centers, and pharmacies may be responsible for their workers’ acts. These companies are oftentimes a better target since they have the insurance and funds to pay out a claim for its full value. They owe the patient a duty of care by ensuring that they recruit trained staff and that they monitor their facilities on a regular basis to guarantee that errors do not occur.

They may be accountable through vicarious responsibility since they are the employers of the negligent worker. However, there is an exception to this rule. If the hospital or institution hires the person as an independent contractor rather than an employee, they may be exempt from liability.

Drug Manufacturers

On occasion, a drug mistake happens on the part of the manufacturer. They might fill a pharmaceutical container with the incorrect medication, make a medicine too powerful or not potent enough, or contaminate a medication. In this instance, the manufacturer may be liable for any damages as a result of their negligence.

Other Third Parties

In rare cases, a third person may be responsible. For example, the medicines were incorrectly kept by the warehouse or shipper, resulting in a fault. If a pharmaceutical error happens as a result of this, they may be held responsible.

What Are the Most Common Types of Medication Errors?

The most prevalent pharmaceutical error, according to research by the FDA that looked at reports of fatal medication errors from 1993 to 1998, was the administration of an incorrect dosage of medicine, which accounted for 41% of fatal medication errors. Giving the wrong medication or administering it in the wrong way accounted for 16 percent of the mistakes. People over the age of 60 accounted for nearly half of all fatal drug mistakes. Because they frequently take numerous prescription drugs, older adults may be more vulnerable to medication mistakes.

Why Are These Medication Errors So Common?

Today’s health-care employees are understaffed. Nurses, physicians, and even technicians are in great demand in all sectors of the industry. With the current scarcity, the chances of drug mistakes in a doctor’s office, pharmacy, or hospital environment are higher. Common root causes for medication errors include the following.

  • Lack of training. When healthcare personnel do not receive proper training on drugs, how to interpret them, or how to distribute them, they are more likely to make mistakes.
  • Inexperience or lack of knowledge about medications. Some pharmacy technicians are unable to distinguish between different medications due to a lack of training. As a result, they fill a prescription with the incorrect medication.
  • Lack of communication between healthcare professionals. Physicians may not correctly explain the amount of medicine to give a patient in a letter to a nurse, or their instructions in a prescription order may be left to the pharmacist’s interpretation.
  • Not enough time spent with patients. Doctors often only have a few minutes with each patient before moving to the next room to treat someone else. Physicians have less time to get a complete patient history as a result of these time restrictions.
  • Inadequate protocols and procedures. When healthcare institutions have limited processes in place, the space for mistakes rises. Whether it’s a nurse double-checking a dosage before giving it to a patient or pharmacy workers following rules to guarantee the appropriate drug goes to the right patient, the room for error expands without these checks and balances.
  • Limited patient monitoring after medication administration. The correct medicine is sometimes provided, but the patient is not followed up on to determine whether their dose needs to be adjusted or if they are having an adverse reaction to the drug.

Why Do These Medication Errors Happen?

Medication mistakes may occur everywhere, including at home, the doctor’s office, the hospital, the drugstore, and even senior living facilities. The following are some of the reasons for this.

  • Distractions: Physicians have a lot of responsibilities and calls on their time. Unfortunately, this implies that they may occasionally write a drug type or dose erroneously. Distractions are estimated to be the cause of 75 percent of all drug mistakes.
  • Poor legibility: Physicians are well-known for their incomprehensible prescription scripts. If a pharmacist then tries to estimate the amount or medicine kind, the patient may suffer catastrophic repercussions. In fact, many prescriptions are now written electronically, which reduces the danger.
  • Poor communication: This might happen between a doctor and a patient, between two separate doctors, or between a doctor and a drugstore. Drug names frequently seem similar, and drug abbreviations can add to the confusion, resulting in patient errors and harm.

What Are the Legal Consequences of Medication Errors?

A pharmaceutical mistake can result in a variety of issues, including long-term damage or death. The majority of these injuries are avoidable, making it even more critical for victims to understand their legal rights. You may be eligible for compensation if you or a loved one was hurt as a result of a pharmaceutical error. Furthermore, you have the right to hold that healthcare worker or facility accountable for your injuries, and ideally, they will modify their internal practices to prevent future victims.

What Damages Can You Recover in a Medication Error Case?

One effective method of assessing the worth of a case is to determine the economic losses you suffered as a result of the misconduct. The following is a list of common economic losses in order to calculate how much compensation you should get.

  • Medical treatment and hospitalization costs
  • Cost of future medical treatment or care needed
  • Loss of income due to the process of recovery
  • Future loss of income because of long term, or even permanent, disability
  • Loss of earning capacity or employment
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering

What Should You Do if You Suspect a Medication Error?

If you know or have reason to think you’ve been the victim of a pharmaceutical error, go to your doctor or pharmacist first to figure out what went wrong.

Most prescription errors are not caused deliberately. However, many of them are nevertheless considered carelessness on the part of the physician, pharmacist, nurse practitioner, or other person. When it comes to patient care, for example, a doctor giving the incorrect prescription dose because of distraction is unacceptable. That individual may be held responsible in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

To prove your case of medical malpractice, you must first prove a professional relationship with the other involved party. You must also prove a breach of professional duty or care. In these cases, evidence is your best bet. Examples of evidence include medical bills, written prescriptions, instructions on how to take your medication, and other related medication records. Keep any and all of these records in case you need them.

Next, we recommend contacting a Chicago medical malpractice attorney. Curcio Law Offices has extensive experience and knowledge concerning these cases. We fight on behalf of those affected by the negligence of medical practitioners, even when it comes to prescription medications. Reach out to us as soon as possible to ensure that your case is handled correctly. 

Contact Curcio Law Offices Today

The physical and legal consequences of medication errors have the potential to be either minor or deadly. As a result, the attorneys at Curcio Law Offices fight tooth and nail on behalf of our clients. We serve the Chicago area as one of the leading medical malpractice firms in the state. Why? Because we care. If you or someone you love suffered medical consequences of medication errors, contact our office as soon as possible. The sooner you call, the sooner we can fight for your rights. Call today at 312-321-1111 or fill out our online intake form.

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