What Is a Medication Error?
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a medication error is “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 errors are among the most common causes of medical malpractice injuries and deaths in the country, harming more than 1.5 million Americans each year. In fact, these errors happen so frequently that the cost of treating medication-related injuries reaches $3.5 billion annually — a figure that doesn’t even account for a patient’s lost wages or additional medical costs.
Unfortunately, medication errors can happen at any stage of your treatment — including at home — and it’s often the most common medications that carry the greatest risks. For example, insulin is used by more than 6 million diabetes sufferers in the nation, yet it remains the most common prescription associated with medication errors. Pain relievers like morphine, codeine, and Vicodin also carry a high risk of medication errors — especially overdoses — in hospitals and in patients’ homes.
Vitamins and over-the-counter medications found in most medicine cabinets can also contribute to a lethal medication error. Failure to inform you of the risks of a prescription can have lethal consequences at home. Neglecting to explain a medication’s contraindications — such as the fatal hemorrhage risk of mixing blood thinners like Heparin with a pain reliever like Advil — is just one example of a medication error that may be easily overlooked by a hurried doctor.
When it comes to medication errors, even the best-case scenarios are grim. The smallest mistake — like missing a decimal point on a prescription’s dosage — can cause permanent damage or even death. Other consequences of medication errors can include long-term disability, astronomical medical bills, and a diminished quality of life.
Medication Error Cases in Arizona
Medical malpractice cases are difficult to file in any state, but in Arizona, these difficulties are compounded by laws intended to reduce so-called frivolous lawsuits. When you file a medical malpractice case in Arizona, the filer must certify “whether or not expert opinion testimony is necessary to prove the health care professional’s standard of care or liability for the claim.” In layman’s terms, unless the error is glaringly obvious, the burden falls on the injured party to hire an expert witness who can tell the judge what good care should look like and prove that the defendant violated this standard of care.
Your expert witness can’t be just any doctor, however. The expert witness must be actively practicing in the defendant’s field or employed as a professor of medicine in the defendant’s specialty. Finding such an expert can be confusing, time-consuming, and emotionally draining for a plaintiff, who may still be suffering from the physical and financial effects of the medication error that started the case to begin with. Even with an expert at hand, you still have to contend with the complicated issues of contributory negligence and joint or severable liability.
Since there is no monetary limit in medical malpractice claims, doctors and hospitals do everything in their power to lessen their accountability. With so much at stake, you can be sure that the defendant in your case will have a retinue of skilled attorneys on hand to protect them. It’s only right that you, the injured party, should receive the same standard of legal aid.
The disturbing truth is that medication errors are often not reported to the patient or family members, especially in a hospital setting. In fact, a study released in 2012 found that families were informed of a medication error in less than 2 percent of hospital cases. If you suspect a medication error has been made, it’s essential to consult professional legal counsel, which can help you find out the truth.
At the Law Offices of Gonzales & Poirier, we understand the unique difficulties that victims of medication errors face. Our compassionate Flagstaff malpractice attorneys have helped countless plaintiffs like you recover medical costs and lost wages to help get their lives back to normal. While no settlement amount can reverse the consequences of a medication error, our medical malpractice lawyers will do everything possible to help you receive the compensation that is rightfully yours.
Common Causes of Medication Error Malpractice:
- Drug name confusion
- Prescription labeling errors
- Faulty medication pumps
- Drug interactions
- Misinterpreted handwriting on prescriptions
- Dosage errors
- Incorrect administration methods
- Compound mixing errors
- Incorrect medication substitutions
- Contaminated medical equipment
- Failure to prescribe necessary medication
- Misleading directions for use
- Failure to disclose contraindications
- Failure to disclose side effects