Medication errors kill at least one American per day and are responsible for injuring approximately 1.3 million–that’s million–people each year in this country. I see this in my law practice regularly.
Here’s how medication errors happen:
1. The pharmacy dispenses the wrong drug or the wrong dosage. (this often happens due to many drugs having similar-sounding names).
2. The doctor in the hospital mistakenly orders the wrong medication or a medication that will adversely react with another medication the patient is being given.
3. The nurse gives the patient the wrong medication, may be ordered by another patient, or the wrong dosage. Job stress, lack of product knowledge or training, or similar labeling or packaging can also contribute to nursing medication errors.
High-risk drugs that cause a disproportionate number of injuries due to medication errors are anticoagulants, opioids, insulin or anti-diabetic agents.
What can we do as patients or caregivers?
Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor or nurse “What is this medication? Why am I getting it? Are you sure that’s for me?”
Check the prescription refill that you get from your pharmacy. Does it look the same as what you got before? Today’s chain pharmacies put a lot of pressure on their pharmacists to fill more prescriptions and fill them faster. This can and does lead to errors.
In the hospital, make sure there’s an order entered by the doctor for what the nurse is giving you. Ideally, all orders should include the reason for the order. “Atavan 10mg once for anxiety,” for example.
What if I or a loved one get harmed by a medication error?
Call a lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice, such as Kip Sinclair at Sinclair Law Offices. If there’s no permanent damage from the mistake, it’s fortunately not going to be a legal case. But, God forbid, if you suffer serious injury or death, a medical malpractice case is the way to seek justice.