IVs are now commonly used to administer chemotherapy in the treatment of cancer. While chemotherapy has been safely administered in outpatient settings for years, the challenges to patient safety are on the rise as the number of chemotherapeutic regimens expands.
At Burnside Law Firm LLP, our attorneys are experienced in handling complex medical malpractice cases involving the administration of medications and we have the resources necessary to investigate cases of chemotherapy toxicity.
Chemotherapy is simply the treatment of disease by chemicals. Oncologists routinely prescribe chemotherapy agents in an effort to eliminate cancer cells which rapidly divide in the body. Unfortunately some normal cells, like hair follicles, also divide rapidly, which is why chemotherapy treatment has many side effects. Chemotherapy agents are highly toxic, prescribing, mixing and administering chemotherapy requires diligence on the part of the team responsible for the chemotherapy regimen. When mistakes occur in these areas, the consequences can be devastating, even fatal.
Chemotherapy Dosage Errors
While almost all practitioners agree that the type of drug, dosage, rate and volume of administration must always be verified before chemotherapy is delivered, it does not always happen. In 2009, the American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO) and the Oncology Nurses Society (ONS) developed standards for the safe administration of chemotherapy in outpatient settings. These standards are designed to reduce risks, including the risk of administering the wrong medication or the wrong dosage. Even though these standards provide safeguards against medication errors, they are not always followed.
Preventing Errors in Administering Chemotherapy Drugs
Medication mistakes involving too much chemotherapy medicine usually result- in chemo toxicity which can cause serious damage to the heart, liver, kidney and other vital organs in the body. Chemo toxicity can also suppress the immune system to the point that the body is unable to fend off even minor infections, usually resulting in death. Not all deaths which occur during chemotherapy treatment are the result of medication errors, and in fact, most are not. Errors can be prevented by following these guidelines:
- All orders/prescriptions for chemotherapy medications should be written, not verbal.
- Each order for chemotherapy should be verified by a second person (a practitioner or other personnel approved by the practice) before it is prepared. This includes confirming the patient’s identity, drug name, dosage, volume, rate and route of administration.
- Chemo drugs should be labeled immediately upon preparation, including the patient’s name, drug name, and the method by which it should be administered.
If you or someone you know have suffered injury on account of an overdose of chemotherapy, contact Burnside Law Firm LLP to learn more about your legal rights.
If you suspect medical negligence regarding the administration of chemotherapy, do not hesitate to contact our Augusta, Georgia, lawyers. We offer experienced, strategic advocacy in cases involving IV medication error injury. Call (706) 432-8320 or contact us by e-mail for an initial consultation.