When is a Medication Error Medical Malpractice?

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Daniel J. Sherry Jr. with Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C..

When is a Medication Error Medical Malpractice?
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) receives more than 100,000 reports of suspected medication errors every year. While the side effects of some medication errors may be relatively mild, depending on the medicine, dosage, or combination of medicines the patient is already taking, life-threatening and even fatal situations are a possibility. In many instances, it can be difficult to identify when an injury or illness is the result of medical malpractice, but with medication errors, there is an increased likelihood that an avoidable error occurred somewhere up the line.

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional such as a doctor, nurse, surgeon, or medical facilities, such as a clinic, hospital, or emergency room, does not exercise a proper standard of care, which results in the serious injury or wrongful death of a patient. Medical malpractice can take a variety of forms, but a common type of malpractice occurs when a doctor or pharmacist prescribes or delivers an erroneous medication. When this occurs and a patient suffers a new or worsened injury or illness as a result, the patient may be eligible to file a medical malpractice claim to seek compensation for their damages.

Unlike other types of medical injuries, medication errors are more often than not the result of malpractice.

Medical staff are typically highly-trained professionals committed to the health and wellbeing of their patients. However, when a medication error occurs, this often means that some sort of oversight occurred somewhere in the treatment process. Some of the most common types of medical negligence or malpractice include the following:

  • Misdiagnosis of the patient’s condition, resulting in the prescription of an incorrect medicine.
  • Miscommunication between medical staff, often resulting in underdosing, overdosing, or combining medication that is not safe to mix.
  • Incorrect or inadequate instructions from the doctor or pharmacist, resulting in the patient not understanding how to safely take their medication.
  • Failure to warn the patient of possible side effects, risks, etc. related to the drug in question.
  • Failing to attend to the patient’s records, resulting in prescribing medicine that could cause an allergic reaction or react badly with other medicine the patient is taking.

In each of these scenarios, an important standard of care has been breached, indicating that medical malpractice played a part in the medication error.

If the medication error constitutes a deviation from the standard of care, it is generally considered malpractice.

A breach of standard of care can be identified when another medical professional with the same training in a similar scenario could reasonably be expected to behave differently than the professional in question. When a breach of standard of care occurs due to medical negligence, the consequences can be painful, dangerous, and expensive. It can be difficult for the average person to identify the standard of care in the first place; this is why it is particularly important to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney if you have been harmed by a medication error. These attorneys know exactly what precautions doctors and medical staff are or are not expected to take with each patient and their medication. They may also be able to obtain medical records exposing the malpractice that the patient themself cannot.

Serious side effects of medication error include but are not limited to the following:

  • Life-threatening medical emergencies
  • Hospitalization
  • Disability
  • Birth defect
  • Death

The consequences of medication errors may be temporary, long-lasting, or even permanent. Whenever a medication error results in a significant injury to the patient, it is important to maintain possession of the drug, seek medical care, and then reach out to an attorney who can help identify where and how the malpractice occurred.

To learn more about medication errors or for help filing a claim after suffering from medical malpractice, reach out to a medical malpractice attorney in your area.

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