Medication errors are one of the most common types of negligent actions among medical professionals in Massachusetts. Keeping track of the more than 6,800 prescription and over-the-counter drugs along with myriad available supplements often leads to adverse reactions, and sometimes even death, in patients who take wrong doses or combinations of drugs and supplements that can cause problems.
Defining medication errors
No formal definition for medication errors exists. However, the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention indicates that errors that could be the cause for a medical malpractice suit are preventable events that lead to inappropriate medication use or cause harm to an individual. The ways in which these errors can occur are diverse. They can include mistakes in prescribing, product labeling and packaging, dispensing or monitoring medications, just to name a few. Unfortunately, medication errors are even more common than motor vehicle accidents when it comes to the number of people who are injured or killed. Types of medication errors include:
• Adverse drug reactions
• Adverse drug events
• Medication misadventures
• Sentinel events
The last category, sentinel events, is the most serious. These incidents can cause serious injury or death.
When do medication errors usually occur?
The most common times for medication errors to occur are during prescribing and dispensing. Writing a prescription for a wrong medication, a wrong dosage or an inappropriate frequency account for more than half of the problems. In many cases, these problems are prevented because pharmacists and nurses frequently catch these errors before the medication is dispensed.
Many Different Causes
The causes of medication error leading to medical malpractice suits are varied. Many different situations can contribute to a claim, including dispensing of medication that has expired or was improperly manufactured and failure to consider contraindications for other drugs or conditions. Even distractions play a significant role. Healthcare staff can prevent errors by double-checking prescriptions at multiple levels and talking to patients.
If you believe that you or a family member has suffered a medication error, you may be able to receive compensation. Talking to an attorney experienced in medical malpractice cases may help you determine if you have a valid claim.