Medication errors injure more than 1.5 million people each year and result in the death of at least one person every day in the United States. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), medication errors are among the most common types of errors that can occur in hospitals, outpatient clinics, and long-term care settings.
All too frequently, patients are given the wrong drugs or the wrong doses. The problem can lie at various phases of the medication chain – in the prescribing, packaging, labeling, dispensing, administering and monitoring of drugs.
If you or a loved one suffered a serious injury or death as a result of medication error in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware or anywhere in the United States, call 800-243-1100 to speak with one of the experienced medication error attorneys at Kline & Specter, PC.
Our firm has more than 40 attorneys, including five who are also highly skilled medical doctors, the most doctor/lawyers of any law firm in the United States.
There are many reasons for medication mistakes, including poor communication and ambiguities in product names, directions, medical abbreviations and even the writing of prescriptions, notes The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
Some of the common types of medication errors noted by the American Hospital Association are the following:
- Incomplete patient information, such as not knowing about patients' allergies, other medicines they are taking, previous diagnoses, and test results.
- Miscommunication of drug orders. This can involve poor handwriting, confusion between drugs with similar names, misplacement of zeroes or decimal points, confusion of metric and other dosing units, and inappropriate abbreviations.
- Lack of appropriate labeling when drugs are prepared and repackaged into smaller units.
- Distraction of medical professionals who dispense or prescribe drugs.
Labeling and packaging issues were cited in 33 percent of all errors, according to the IOM’s study, with some drugs and varying doses dispensed in bottles or vials that look alike. One example cited in news reports was the similarity between packaging for insulin and heparin, a blood thinner.
One-fourth of medication errors were attributed to confusion over similar drug names. Also, the IOM noted “growing unease” about the dispensing of free samples.
A number of organizations have recommended systematic changes to reduce the risk of medication errors, such as simplification of printed drug information, much of which is written at a college reading level and is difficult for many people to understand.
The IOM suggested that patients ask questions when they are prescribed or given drugs, such as how to take the medications and what they should do in the event of side effects. It also suggested that patients have their doctors give them a printed record of all the drugs they have been prescribed, with the list also including any drug or food allergies they have. The list can be shown to other doctors, such as various specialists.
Medication Error Questions
Is a medication error the same thing as a side-effect?
Medication errors are preventable mistakes that can lead to serious or even fatal injury. Side-effects are not always preventable nor are they always the result of a mistake. Medication errors are caused by negligence. Side-effects can be caused by any type of medication, even when prescribed and administered appropriately.
When a side-effect is extreme or caused by a dangerous or defective medication, you may be entitled to seek compensation through a product liability lawsuit. Medication errors, on the other hand, are an issue of medical malpractice. Our attorneys can investigate your claim to determine which issue, if either, factored into your injury.
Who is responsible for medication errors?
As with any instance of medical malpractice, medication errors may result from the actions or inactions of multiple parties. In some cases, injury caused by medication error may be related to dosage inconsistencies. In others, a labeling mistake may have led to the wrong type or strength of medication being administered. Improperly dispensed medications and those with poor instructions may also lead to injury from medication error, as can several other factors.
At Kline and Specter PC, we investigate medication errors to establish their cause – and we hold those parties – be they doctors, nurses, support staff, administrators, or anyone else involved in patient care – accountable for any action that resulted in harm.
What kinds of damages can I seek through a medication error lawsuit?
Each case is unique, but damages in a medication error lawsuit may include:
- Medical expenses
- Current and projected lost wages
- Personal pain and suffering
Our firm has secured multiple verdicts and settlements for victims of medical malpractice. We are prepared to get to work on your case right away to help secure compensation for both your economic and noneconomic damages.
What can I do if I’ve lost a loved one due to medication error?
If you have lost a loved one through medication error, our attorneys can review your case and discuss the option of a wrongful death lawsuit. These suits seek damages to cover end-of- life expenses along with practical considerations for the health, happiness, and security of family members who relied on the victim for financial and emotional support.
Our attorneys understand the difficulties posed by the loss of a family member. We work to support and protect families forced into these positions through medical negligence and are prepared to take viable cases as far as needed to help ensure our clients are awarded the compensation they will need to carry on in the absence of their loved one.