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Medication Errors

When you go to visit the doctor, you trust that they will diligently care for you, which includes prescribing the correct medication. After all, doctors are required to go through years of intense training before can be licensed with the ability to treat patients. In most cases, everything works the way it should. However, doctors are human and can often make mistakes, including medication errors. When any healthcare professional makes a medication error, the results can be dire for the patient.

The medical malpractice attorneys at Slappey and Sadd have represented many victims who have been injured by medication errors that were committed by medical personnel. If you have suffered an injury due to a medication error, you probably have a lot of questions swirling around in your head. For this reason, having a personal injury attorney look into your situation might be a good idea. Our skilled attorneys have handled many cases of medical malpractice just like yours and are ready and available to advocate for your rights.

What are Medication Errors?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines a medication error as "any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer. Such events may be related to professional practice, health care products, procedures, and systems, including prescribing, order communication, product labeling, packaging, and nomenclature, compounding, dispensing, distribution, administration, education, monitoring, and use." A medication error can be committed by anyone in a patient's chain of care, including a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or anyone else who prescribes, dispenses, or delivers a drug to a patient.

Common Types of Medication Errors

"Medication errors" is a very broad term that encompasses many types of errors committed on the part of medical personnel. Some of the most common specific medication errors include:

  • Prescribing errors: These errors occur when a doctor prescribes the wrong drug to the patient. This can include the wrong dose, form, quantity, route (oral vs. intravenous), concentration, rate of admission, or prescribing a medication the patient is allergic to.
  • Omission errors: An omission error occurs when there is a failure to give a medication dose before the next dose is scheduled.
  • Wrong time errors: A wrong time error occurs when a medication is given outside its scheduled time.
  • Wrong drug preparation errors: A wrong drug preparation error occurs when a medication is improperly formulated.
  • Fragmented care errors: These types of errors often arise when there is a lack of communication between the patient's prescribing physician and other healthcare professionals who are involved in the patient's treatment plan.
What Causes Medical Personnel to Make Medication Errors?

The World Health Organization has identified many factors that can lead to medication errors broken down by category.

Health Care Professional Factors
  • Lack of proper training
  • Inadequate drug knowledge and experience
  • Inadequate knowledge of the patient or his or her history
  • Overworked or fatigued health care professionals
  • Poor communication between healthcare professionals and the patient
Patient Factors
  • Patient characteristics (e.g., personality, literacy, and language barriers)
  • Complexity of the clinical case (including multiple health conditions, poly pharmacy, and high-risk medications)
Systemic Factors
  • Workload and time pressures on medical staff
  • Distractions and interruptions
  • Lack of standardized protocols and procedures
  • Insufficient resources
  • Issues within the physical work environment (including lighting, temperature, and noise level)
Medication Errors Can Cause Injury

When a medical professional commits a medication error, this error can often lead to an adverse drug reaction (ADR), which is any appreciably harmful or unpleasant reaction resulting from an intervention related to the use of a medicinal product. The effects of an ADR vary from individual to individual, but they can be broken down into three sub-groups.

  • Dose-related adverse drug reactions: A dose-related ADR is an exaggeration of the drug's therapeutic effects.
  • Allergic drug reactions: An allergic drug reaction occurs when the patient's immune system develops an inappropriate reaction to a drug.
  • Idiosyncratic adverse drug reactions: The precise cause of these types of reactions are not currently known, but can often manifest as rashes, jaundice, anemia, a decrease in the white blood cell count, kidney damage, and nerve injury that may impair vision and hearing.
Establishing Liability for Medication Errors

In most medical malpractice cases, including medication error cases, a plaintiff's claim will boil down to negligence. To prevail on a claim of negligence, the plaintiff must establish that his or her situation satisfies all four of the elements of negligence. The elements of negligence are:

  1. Duty: All healthcare professionals owe their patients the duty to exercise the level of care that conforms to the standard a reasonably competent doctor would exercise. This includes the duty to refrain from making medication errors.
  2. Breach: A healthcare professional breaches the above duty by engaging in conduct that falls below the relevant standard of care. This can be established by showing that a reasonably competent doctor would not have made a medication error in the same or similar situation.
  3. Causation: The breach was the actual and proximate cause of the patient's harm, meaning that the harm the plaintiff suffered would not have occurred but for the breach.
  4. Damages: The patient experienced actual harm because of the doctor's breach, which can be both physical harm and financial harm.

Liability for medication errors can fall on any medical professional who was involved in the patient's treatment, including physicians, nurses, hospitals, pharmacists, and pharmacies.

Contact an Atlanta, Georgia Medication Error Attorney

If you have been injured because of a medication error, you may be facing severe effects, such as significant pain and suffering, expensive medical bills, lost wages, and decreased quality of life. If you believe that you suffered any of these injuries because of the negligence of a healthcare professional, you may be able to recover for your injuries through a medical malpractice action. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Walker County, Walton County, and Newton County.

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