Why Medication Errors Occur and the Different Types of Mistakes That Are Commonly Made

Pile of pink pillsPatients in emergency rooms and hospitals often receive medication for their ailments and injuries. Even when released from the hospital, people take medications to treat their various illnesses. Consequently, people rely on their doctors, nurses, and pharmacists to provide them with safe medications that can help them and not harm them. Unfortunately, medication errors are often made at the hands of negligent doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and other medical staff, which cause patients unnecessary harm.

What Is a Medication Error?

According to the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention (NCC MERR), “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 events may be related to professional practice, health care products, procedures, and systems, including prescribing, order communication, product labeling, packaging and nomenclature, compounding, dispensing, distribution, administration, education, monitoring, and use.”

Simply put, when unnecessary harm comes to a patient as a result of negligence involving medication, a patient may be the victim of a medication error and may be able to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit against the negligent party.

Types of Medication Errors

Some of the different types of medication errors that occur and may lead to medical malpractice claims include:

  • Wrong medication. This type of medication mistake can occur as a result of a doctor prescribing the wrong medicine to a patient. It can also happen when a doctor prescribes the right medication, but the nurse administers the wrong medicine or the pharmacist supplies the wrong drug.
  • Wrong dose. This type of medication error typically happens when a nurse administers the incorrect dosage of medicine to a patient. It can also occur when a pharmacist fills the wrong dose of the right medication or the doctor prescribes the wrong dosage—resulting in an overdose and very serious situation.
  • Anesthesia errors. This type of medication mistake occurs when anesthesiologists fail to monitor their patients during surgery or give their patients the wrong dose of anesthesia or the wrong anesthesia.
  • Pharmacy errors. This type of medication mishap takes place when a pharmacist or pharmacy technician mixes up patients’ prescriptions, fills the wrong medication or wrong dose of medication, or provides the wrong instructions and labeling information.

Preventing Medication Errors

Because many medication mistakes take place in hospitals, it is important that patients are their own advocates. Ask the doctor for the name and dosage of the medication being prescribed to you. Then, confirm the name and dosage with the nurse every time medication is given to you. If the prescription is for home use, confirm with the pharmacist that the name and dosage of drug is what the doctor prescribed to you and have a consultation about how to properly use the medication.

While you should learn the names and dosages of the medications you are taking to help prevent a medication mistake from happening, not all errors involving medications can be prevented. As a result, you may be harmed due to someone’s negligence.

The Reality of Medication Errors

Unfortunately, many people die as a result of medication mistakes. According to the NCC MERP website, approximately 98,000 people die each year as a result of medical errors that take place in hospitals. One of the main causes of these deaths is medication errors. For those people who are survivors of such medication errors, it is possible their health condition worsened or the error caused complications and more serious problems. This is why survivors of medication errors need to hold the negligent parties accountable through a medical malpractice lawsuit.

To learn about the laws surrounding medical malpractice and to get your questions answered about your specific case, please call us today at (703) 591-0067 or order a free copy of our book, Do I Have a Case? A Patient’s Guide to Virginia Medical Negligence Law.