Medications and other pharmaceuticals can be very beneficial when prescribed and used correctly. However, when a medication is prescribed incorrectly or a dosage error is made, the consequences for the patient can be serious and even fatal. Physicians, pharmacists, and nurses can be held liable for medical malpractice involving medication errors, which occurs all too often.
At least 1.5 million Americans are sickened, injured or killed each year by errors in prescribing, dispensing and taking medications, the Institute of Medicine concluded in a major report released in 2006. An alarming report by a panel of experts found that mistakes in giving drugs are so prevalent in hospitals that, on average, a patient will be subjected to a medication error each day he or she occupies a hospital bed! Many of these medication errors could be avoided if doctors adopted electronic prescribing or if hospitals had a standardized bar-code system for checking and dispensing drugs, the report said.
Common errors include doctors writing prescriptions that could interact dangerously with other drugs a patient is taking, nurses putting the wrong medication — or the wrong dose — in an intravenous drip and pharmacists dispensing 100-milligram pills rather than the prescribed 50-milligram dose. Based on past studies, the panel estimated that drug errors cause at least 400,000 preventable injuries and deaths in hospitals each year, more than 800,000 in nursing homes and facilities for the elderly, and 530,000 among Medicare recipients treated in outpatient clinics. The report said the actual numbers are probably much higher.
Physicians have a duty to make sure that the medications they order for their patients are appropriate and are given correctly. Likewise, hospitals, through their nursing staff, have a duty to make sure medications are appropriate and given as ordered by the physician. In addition, pharmacists and pharmacy staff are responsible for ensuring that medications ordered do not conflict with other medications a patient may be receiving and for filling prescriptions correctly. Unfortunately, these duties are often neglected and serious errors are made in prescribing and administering medications to patients.
If you or someone you know has been injured by a medication error, call one of the attorneys at Burnside Law Firm LLP for a free initial consultation. Our attorneys have experience representing victims of medication errors, and have access to expert consultants who can assist in evaluating your case. In order to assist us in this process, please complete the intake form.
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