How often do medication errors occur?
One death per day is attributed to a medication error, and over a million people in the United States are injured by them. That number is far too high. Many factors have contributed to the rise of medication errors, and almost all are preventable.
A provider's duty is to help their patient, and to "do no harm." Failure to adhere to these principles can constitute malpractice when it results in lasting harm to a patient.
Why do they occur?
Doctors and healthcare professionals often commit medication errors for a multitude of reasons. A tired nurse may administer a shot at the wrong site, resulting in a case of SIRVA for the patient. Long shift hours, overuse of caffeine, use of substances to cope with stress and high demand with shortened patient visit time slots are all factors that contribute to medication errors. These can result in:
- Prescribing medication for an incorrect diagnosis
- Failure to calculate an appropriate dosage, resulting in overdose
- Lack of drug information relayed (contributing to adverse events)
- Adverse and fatal events
What kinds of medication errors are there?
Medication errors have plenty of causes, including:
- Communication-based: Poor communication between doctor and patient, or between multiple medical providers involved in treating the same patient.
- Knowledge-based: Examples include not knowing a patient's allergies, or their previous experience with a certain type of drug.
- Memory-based: These errors happen when a provider has a slip of memory and accidentally prescribes or packages the wrong medication, possibly even to the wrong patient. They may also not remember patient allergies, or dosages they were sensitive to in the past.
- Skill-based errors: Also known as slips and lapses, these are product of human error in an action that was correctly planned out.
- Rule-based errors: Actions that match the intention, but are carried out improperly. Examples include injecting a patient with the proper dose of the right medication, but at the wrong site.
Pediatric Medication Errors
Adults aren't the only medicated population in the United States. In fact, children continue to be the most vulnerable to medication errors. Due to their age and the way their less-developed physiology metabolizes medication, the effects of incorrect dosages can often be more severe. The common causes for pediatric medication errors are similar, if not the same as adult errors, but with additional risks.
Most medications are packaged for adults, and pills may need to be split by hand. Not all parents, guardians, or self-administering children know how to do this or remember to. In addition, medications for infants can easily be wrongly administered, and the delicate art of prescribing a proper dosage for a child can easily turn deadly with a sloppy mistake.
Fatal Medication Errors
One death every day is attributed to a medication error. These errors are preventable, and lives could be saved with just a little bit of attention and focused care by the medical providers we are supposed to trust. Medication adverse events that result in Emergency Department visits that could end in fatalities are most commonly associated with certain drugs, including:
Accidental overdoses are common, as well as side effects and allergic reactions. Hundreds of thousands of people die due to medical errors every year, and preventing medication errors could lower that number.
If you or a loved one has suffered due to a healthcare provider's medication error, you need legal representation. Contact attorney Joseph F. Brown, who not only handles medical malpractice cases, but also cares about the citizens of Idaho. We provide a free initial consultation that poses no monetary risk to you, only the parties responsible for malpractice. Let's start rebuilding your life today.