How Do Medication Errors Happen?

A medication error is a mistake in the prescribing, dispensing, or administration of medications that can lead to patient harm. Errors with medication are a form of medical malpractice when caused by a medical provider’s negligence. Errors can occur with both prescription and over-the-counter drugs in any phase of the use process.

The World Health Organization estimates the costs associated with medication errors totals around $42 billion annually. Recent studies have found that between 7,000 and 9,000 people die because of a medication error each year. Many more are harmed by medication. Many users don’t report complications or adverse reactions.

Errors can happen for many reasons, including:

Prescribing Errors

A physician or other health care provider could prescribe the wrong medication, dosage, or frequency. If a patient has allergies or is on other medications, they could fail to consider possible adverse reactions.

Dispensing Errors

This could involve giving the patient the wrong medication, strength, or form, or mislabeling the drug.

Administration and Monitoring Errors

A patient could be harmed if they receive the wrong medication, dosage, or form, or if they receive their medication at the wrong time.

For example, the instructions with some medications may say it should be taken with food or liquid. If the patient takes the medicine without eating or drinking enough liquid, their body may not be able to absorb it properly, which could lead to injury.

Other Possible Causes

Medication errors may not be the fault of any single person. Sometimes multiple systemic problems contribute to them. However, other forms of medical malpractice are more brazen. Staff could steal a patient’s medication for personal use.

They might borrow from one patient’s prescription to give to another on the same drug. Staff could be at fault if they ignore a doctor’s medical orders or if those orders are changed without documentation.

Your Pennsylvania medication error lawyer will investigate what happened with your loved one’s medication error and determine who’s liable.

Possible Negative Reactions to Medication Errors

The consequences of a medication error can vary depending on the type of medication wrongfully administered and the patient’s health status. Those with pre-existing conditions are at a greater risk of adverse effects.

Some possible reactions after a medication error include:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Severe pain
  • Allergic reactions or anaphylaxis
  • Seizures
  • Heart problems
  • Organ damage

A severe reaction could require an extended hospital stay for treatment and recovery. In the most serious cases, medication errors can be fatal.

Who’s Liable for Medication Errors?

Many errors are preventable. Several parties could be liable for the harm you or your loved one suffered. A medication error attorney in Pennsylvania can help you identify all the liable parties and ensure their accountability.

Nursing Home Facility

Nursing homes have a responsibility to provide patients with a safe environment. That includes the proper dispensing and administration of medication. Facilities must employ well-trained staff and implement clear medication protocols.

If this responsibility is not met or ignored, the nursing home often holds primary liability for medication errors that occur in the facility.

Individual Staff

Nurses, aides, and other facility staff are often responsible for interacting with patients to hand out medication. If a nurse, aide, or other facility employee adds to the error, they could be held liable for their negligence.

Prescribing Physician or Pharmacy

The doctor who prescribed the medication could share liability if they made a mistake with the prescription, such as prescribing the wrong drug or dosage.

The pharmacy that dispensed the medication could be liable if they didn’t accurately fill what was prescribed or if they didn’t check for potential drug interactions with other medications that the patient is taking.

Proving Negligence in Your Medication Error Case

You can recover compensation for a medication error through a personal injury claim or lawsuit. First, Pennsylvania law requires you to prove the liable party’s negligence to be successful.

To establish negligence for a medication error, you’ll have to show that the nursing home:

  • Had a duty to act as a reasonable person/entity would under similar circumstances.
  • Breached this duty of care.
  • Caused your injuries by breaching this duty.

You’ll also have to demonstrate that you suffered damages because of the error. This can be proven with evidence such as prior treatment records, medical reports, and expert witness testimony.

Compensation for a Medication Error Claim

If you were hurt by a medication error caused by someone else’s negligence in a nursing home, you can recover compensation for the injuries and losses you suffered. These damages include, but are not limited to:

  • Current and future medical expenses
  • Disability or physical impairment
  • Long-term care costs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Psychological and emotional distress

Wrongful Death Damages

If your loved one died because of a medication error, you may be able to pursue wrongful death damages. We realize that a lawsuit won’t bring your loved one back. However, a wrongful death claim could provide compensation for your family’s grief.

A lawsuit can help cover funeral expenses and the loss of financial support the decedent would have provided to their surviving spouse or heirs. Your medication error attorney can explain Pennsylvania’s wrongful death and survival statutes and explore if they could apply to your case.

Medication Error FAQs

How long do I have to file a medication error case?

Medication errors fall under the umbrella of medical malpractice. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is generally two years. Contact an attorney as soon as possible if you believe your loved one was improperly medicated.

What are the symptoms of a medication error?

Here are some warning signs to look out for that could indicate a medication error:

  • New physical symptoms such as nausea or headaches
  • Drowsiness or extreme fatigue
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Abnormal changes in vital signs
  • Loss of appetite or weight changes

What should I do if I suspect a medication mistake?

If you suspect your loved one was improperly medicated, contact nursing home staff and their doctor immediately to get medical treatment. Reach out to a medication error attorney in Pennsylvania immediately so we can further investigate what happened and determine if you have a viable legal claim.

Hurt by a Drug Error in a PA Nursing Home? Call Atlee Hall Today

Medication should help your loved one heal or manage their symptoms, not harm them. If you believe an error in a nursing home led to a mistake with your loved one’s medication, call Atlee Hall today.

Liability can be complex in medical malpractice cases such as these, but our medication error attorneys have decades of experience advocating for families who were hurt by negligent nursing homes. We’ll fight for the compensation you and your family deserve after an injury.

Call (717) 393-9596 or contact us today for a free initial consultation.