Are Medication Errors a Form of Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a term which encompasses any professional negligence by health care professionals or providers which lead to negative outcomes. In other words, any substandard treatment from a doctor, nurse, or other hospital staff that leads to the injury or death of a patient qualifies as medical malpractice. As we’ve discussed on this blog before, there are many different kinds of medical malpractice: surgical error, failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, etc. Another common example of medical malpractice is medication error.
What is Medication Error?
Like the term “medical malpractice,” the term “medication error” refers to a number of different things. Administering the wrong medication, the wrong dosage of a medication (either too little or too much), mislabeling medication, prescribing a medication without taking allergies into consideration, prescribing a medication without considering negative interactions, and failure to warn a patient about the common or harmful side effects of a medication are all examples of medication errors. Each one of these errors can be the basis for a medical malpractice case because each one can be incredibly serious.
How Do Medication Errors Occur?
There are many different ways that medication errors can occur. For example, a person might have the wrong dosage of medication administered because any of the health care providers in the entire medication chain (doctor, nurse, pharmacist, etc.) could have missed or transposed a decimal point. When this happens, a person could have ten or a hundred times too much or too little medication. Obviously, this is an easy mistake to make, but it can often have devastating consequences. Other times, medication errors occur due simply to bad handwriting. It’s a common stereotype that doctors have bad handwriting, but if it’s true and a pharmacist misreads a prescription, there can be serious problems for the patient. Thankfully, as electronic prescriptions become more common, the problems caused by poor penmanship are decreasing.
Almost all medication comes with a number of warnings. It’s important for doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and anyone else involved in the process of prescribing and providing medication to inform and warn patients about any harmful side effects or dangerous drug interactions. It’s the responsibility of health care providers to take any allergies or existing prescriptions into account before they provide medication.
Sometimes, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists can do everything right, but if the medication was mislabeled by the manufacturer, patients would suffer the consequences. Other times, medication can be mislabeled by the pharmacists themselves. If the manufacturer mislabels the product, it will usually result in a product liability lawsuit, but when it’s done by the pharmacist, it results in a medical malpractice suit.
Who is Responsible For Medication Errors?
Figuring out who is responsible for a medication error can sometimes depend on the type of error that has occurred. For example, a doctor would be responsible for prescribing a medication without taking allergies, negative interactions with other medications, or harmful side effects into consideration. Nurses and other hospital staff, on the other hand, can be held responsible for administering the wrong medication or the wrong dosage of medication. It would be fair to say that anyone and everyone involved in the process of prescribing and providing medications can be held legally liable if a mistake is made. This means that pharmacists and pharmaceutical manufacturers can also be held responsible for some medication errors.
Unfortunately, medical malpractice is still too common. If you believe that you’ve experienced medical malpractice, you should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney right away. At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we have over 70 years of collective legal and trial experience, and we can assist you with any questions you may have. Feel free to contact us for a free consultation.