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Medical Malpractice: Pain Medication Errors

Long before pharmacies and laboratories existed, mankind used roots, leaves and fruit to cure effects of disease and pain. In most cases these worked well but not without some fatal consequences. Today, medication is used to cure minor to severe ailments, recurring, life threatening and incurable diseases. Further, medication is used to alleviate or reduce pain. Most often than not medication affects different people in different ways. This is based on the person’s body chemistry and many other different factors. As a result, medication may sometimes require testing and tweaking in order to determine which medicine works best for the individual. For the patient to thus receive the correct medication it is necessary for the medical professional to pay careful attention to the entire healthcare process. This article will discuss medical malpractice related pain medication errors.

Every pharmacist needs to pay specific attention to dosages and any other information that is required by the doctor when it comes to filling the prescription. Any errors that occur during this process could result in severe side effects or additional injuries to the patient; in worst-case scenarios it could lead to death. The same is true when the patient is given the wrong medication whether or not the dosage is correct. Such mistakes easily happen due to the similarities in shape, size and color of pills.

Sometimes it is easy to assume that these sorts of mistakes are unavoidable, however, according to the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention, errors relating to medication dosage or type are avoidable in most cases. The majority of the errors are due to:

  • inaccuracies during prescription by the physician
  • inaccuracies in the processing of an order
  • when the drug is filled

If the patient suffers an overdose or a reaction to the drug, liability may lie with the pharmacist or the medical expert and may result in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

The FDA is responsible for assessing medication mistake reports, and it has been noted that since the year 2000 there have been over 100,000 error reports with regards to medicine. The agency completes several studies using the data received from these reports and one study showed that 41% of fatalities were as a result of incorrect quantities of doses. The same report showed that almost half of all victims of incorrect quantity doses where 60 years and above. As a result, there is speculation that this age bracket has a higher medication error risk because of the use of multiple drugs due to various ailments.

When there are medicine mistakes the results is severe injury, damage that is long-term or death of the patient. Often wrong drug administration is as a result of a pharmacist not paying attention and grabbing a pill that is the same color, size or shape as the one prescribed. In other instances, the mistake is as a result of abbreviations for drugs that are similar, misreading the doctor’s handwriting or failure to decipher the doctor’s handwriting. In order to reduce or eliminate these possible causes of wrong drugs the FDA reviews name-brand and generic drug names as well as labels and wrappings.

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