Prescription Drug or Medication Errors as Medical Malpractice
Making mistakes is a part of being human, and medical professionals also sometimes make mistakes when they provide treatment to patients. When a medical error results in serious injuries or death, it can amount to medical malpractice. One common type of medical mistake that can result in serious harm to patients is a prescription drug error. When a patient is prescribed the wrong medication or the wrong dose, it can result in potentially life-threatening complications.
Prescription drug errors can amount to medical malpractice in Pennsylvania when they result in injuries and calculable damages. While medical malpractice is a type of personal injury claim that applies to physicians, pharmacists, nurses, hospitals, and other providers, special requirements apply to plaintiffs pursuing these types of claims. Here is some information about prescription medication errors and when they might rise to the level of medical malpractice from the Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Raynes & Lawn.
What Is a Prescription Drug Error?
A prescription drug error occurs when a doctor prescribes the wrong medication or dose to a patient, a nurse administers the wrong medication in a hospital setting, or a pharmacist incorrectly fills a prescription for a patient. It is important to differentiate between a medication error and an adverse drug event. An adverse drug event refers to potential problems with a prescription drug that might be caused by a manufacturing or design defect. This type of event is not something that health care providers can prevent. By contrast, prescription drug errors refer to preventable mistakes that doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and other providers make during the treatment of patients.
Common Types of Prescription Drug Errors
There are many different types of prescription drug errors. Some of the most common types are discussed below.
Prescribing the Wrong Drug
In a very common type of prescription drug error case, a doctor will prescribe a patient the wrong medication. This might occur when the doctor fails to review the patient’s history for allergies and potential interactions with other medications, including over-the-counter drugs, that the patients are taking. In this type of drug error, the patient might then suffer a serious interaction or an anaphylactic reaction, either of which could be potentially life-threatening.
Prescribing the Wrong Dose
Another common prescription mistake occurs when a doctor prescribes the wrong dose of a medication. While the medication might be the right one, this type of error means that the patient receives too little or too much of it. This type of mistake can result in an overdose or the patient not receiving the treatment needed for his or her underlying condition.
Medication Administration Errors
In some cases, the treating physician will prescribe the right drug and in the right dose for a patient in a hospital setting. However, other medical staff, including nurses or medication aides, then administer it improperly. The staff administering the drug might administer the wrong dose or administer the drug to the wrong patient, for example.
Pharmacist Misreads the Prescription
In some cases, a pharmacist will misread a handwritten prescription because of the illegibility of the doctor’s handwriting. This can result in the pharmacist filling the prescription in the wrong dose or with the wrong medication.
Pharmacist Gives the Wrong Medication to the Patient
In some cases, a pharmacist will not properly check the label of a filled medication and give the wrong one to a patient. This can result in a patient taking someone else’s medication, potentially resulting in harm. A closely related error occurs when a pharmacist fills a prescription in the wrong dose, which could potentially result in an overdose.
Any of these types of common prescription errors can amount to viable medical malpractice claims when they cause injuries and calculable losses. However, a simple prescription error will not necessarily lead to a malpractice claim. For example, if your pharmacist gives you someone else’s prescription, but you check the label, see that it is not yours, and do not take it, you will not have a viable claim for malpractice.
Special Rules for Malpractice Claims
Pennsylvania requires plaintiffs to file certificates of merit with their medical malpractice lawsuits. These are attestations that the medical records have been reviewed by medical experts who can testify that the doctors or other health care providers deviated from the expected standard of care and caused the patients’ injuries and losses. You cannot file a medical malpractice claim without a certificate of merit, so you will have to retain a medical expert to review your documents.
It is also important to take the statute of limitations into account. You have two years to file a medical malpractice lawsuit from the date the malpractice occurred. If you do not file your complaint within this time, your claim will be time-barred, and you will not be able to pursue legal remedies for your losses. However, if you did not discover that your injuries were caused by malpractice until a later date, the limitations period will start to run from the date of your discovery or the date you should reasonably have discovered the provider’s medical negligence.
Proving Medical Malpractice Cases Involving Prescription Errors
To prove a medical malpractice case involving a prescription drug error, you will have to retain a medical expert as previously discussed. Retaining an expert will drive up the cost of litigation, but most medical malpractice attorneys accept cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that you will not have to pay your lawyer’s fees or legal costs unless you prevail in your claim.
To prove your case, you will be required to present evidence showing the following elements:
- You and the defendant had a provider-patient relationship.
- The provider’s prescription error fell below the expected standard of care.
- The prescription error caused your injuries.
- You incurred calculable losses as a result.
Consult a Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you were seriously harmed because of a prescription error, you should speak to an attorney at Raynes & Lawn to learn about your potential rights. Call us today for a free consultation at 1-800-535-1797.
For the general public: This Blog/Website is made available by the law firm publisher, Raynes & Lawn, for educational purposes. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law but does not provide specific legal advice. By using this site, commenting on posts, or sending inquiries through the site or contact email, you confirm that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the Blog/Website publisher. The Blog/Website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.
For attorneys: This Blog/Website is informational in nature and is not a substitute for legal research or a consultation on specific matters pertaining to your clients. Due to the dynamic nature of legal doctrines, what might be accurate one day may be inaccurate the next. As such, the contents of this blog must not be relied upon as a basis for arguments to a court or for your advice to clients without, again, further research or a consultation with our professionals.