Errors in prescribing or administering medications are a common cause of injuries to patients. While the exact numbers of injuries and fatalities caused by these errors are up for debate, sources agree the problem is more common than it should be.
According to some studies, medication errors make up about 50% of patient errors and can lead to a personal injury lawsuit against the doctor or hospital. Nurses and pharmacists uncover between 30% and 70% of these errors.
These errors have an annual cumulative cost of over $40 billion. Additionally, patients can suffer psychological harm and lose trust in doctors and the entire healthcare system.
A physician may be liable in a lawsuit for not following the governing standard of care to patients while prescribing or administering medications. In addition to a civil judgment, a licensed practitioner may have their license to practice restricted or revoked.
Doctors should take these steps to prevent medication errors:
- Use electronic prescriptions to avoid confusion over handwriting illegibility
- Avoid using abbreviations which are often misinterpreted
- Be precise with dosage and metric units
- Consider age, liver function, kidney function and other health factors because patients with impaired liver or kidney function, for example, usually need smaller doses
- Specify the treatment’s duration in addition to the amount of pills being disbursed
- Add clear instructions and any needed supplemental directions, including potential drug interactions
- Provide uncomplicated and careful counseling to patients and place contact information on the prescription
- Identify potential drug interactions on the prescription which also assists the pharmacist with counseling patients
Attorneys can assist patients and their families seek compensation for medication errors or other malpractice. They can also help assure their rights are protected in a lawsuit.