When Do Prescription Medication Errors Become Medical Malpractice

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Medical malpractice cases typically center on a medical practitioner’s wrongful actions. So, what happens when a doctor administers a prescription medication that harms a patient? From a legal standpoint, the doctor who administers a wrong prescription is liable for the oversight. Medication errors are complex cases because you must prove, without a doubt, that the doctors’ actions constitute medical negligence. This article discusses the scenarios in which a doctor’s error is termed as medical misconduct.  

What Prescription Errors Result in Medical Malpractice?

There are several prescription medication errors and related actions that may lead to legal problems. These are the common slip-ups that can render a doctor liable for malpractice.

  • Dispensing the wrong medication to a patient
  • Administering a higher or lower medication dosage
  • Wrongful labeling of medication
  • Prescribing medication that the patient is allergic
  • Prescribing medication that reacts negatively to a patient’s pre-existing medical usage
  • Lastly, not warning the patient about potential side effects of medication

Evidence Needed to Prove Prescription Error Medical Malpractice

Proving the liability of a doctor in a medical malpractice lawsuit means that you need supporting evidence to ascertain that there was negligence when prescribing medication. These three guiding principles dictate if a negligence case is plausible:

  • What is the medical standard? There has to be a clear understanding of the recommended procedures in the specific scenario. An expert witness with medical experience defines the standard level of care needed in the context of the incident.
  • Was there a deviation from the norm? There should be evidence that the doctor deviated from standard practice when administering medication. In this case, too, an expert witness needs to show how the doctor flouted the recommended standard of practice
  • Was there any harm? There should be clear proof that the doctors’ actions were harmful to the patients’ health. You will need to verify that the administered medication caused health problems or worsened the state of a preexisting condition. The medical problem should be severe enough to warrant a lawsuit.

Those Liable for a Medication Error

Anyone involved in prescribing and dispensing medication is liable for drug error malpractice. Doctors should write accurate prescriptions, and pharmacists must issue the right medicine and dosages. Hospitals and health corporations must also guarantee drug safety. If any of these parties is found to have caused a medical error, they are liable for damages.

How Prescription Medication Errors Occur

Medical malpractice is a major cause of deaths and injury in the US. Most of the reported cases are attributed to human error. So, how exactly do these mistakes happen?

Administering Wrong Medication or Dosage

Doctors are responsible for the proper prescription of medication while nurses ensure that the patient receives the right medicine. Any negligence in this chain of procedures may be disastrous for a patient.

It is surprisingly easy to issue the wrong dosage. For instance, if one of the medical practitioners in the medication chain rearranges a single decimal point in a prescription, a patient may end up with an underdose or overdose.

Improper Medication Labeling

Sometimes medication can be wrongly labeled, and this often happens at the manufacturing location or the pharmacy. Such an error could cause physical harm to a patient due to an improper prescription. Mislabeling at the manufacturer level could lead to a product liability lawsuit. You can file a viable medical malpractice suit if mislabeling by a pharmacist leads to a medication error.    

Harmful Prescription Medication – Allergies and Interactions

This drug prescription error typically happens at pharmacies. Although it is the doctors’ responsibility to keep track of a patient’s allergies, the pharmacist should also keep track of medication history to avoid harmful drug interaction effects.

Medication tracking is the main reason patients should stick to one pharmacist with prescription records.   

Failure to Warn About Side Effects

Patients should always be aware of the typical side effects of their medication. They should also be informed about the food to avoid while medicating. For instance, grapefruit does not interact well with blood pressure and high cholesterol medications.   

Therefore, doctors and pharmacists must tell you the potential side effects and foodstuffs to avoid before consuming any medicine. Failure to divulge these essential details may negatively affect a patient and ultimately lead to a lawsuit.

Records Discrepancy

Sometimes patients’ records get mixed up during administrative processes. Such a mistake could lead to the wrongful dispensation of medicine. Administering the wrong treatment in such a mix-up could end up being life-threatening for a patient.

Notable Prescription Medication Lawsuits

a doctor giving a woman  Prescription Medication
Senior woman at the doctor’s office.

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, unsafe medical care is one the leading causes of death in healthcare. Indeed, the FDA collects over 100,000 reports of medication-related errors. Here are some actual cases of medication errors that led to medical malpractice lawsuits.

Plaintiff vs Nurse D

In Nevada, a nurse at a senior’s home erroneously administered a high dosage of morphine to an elderly patient. The dosage was later found to have been prescribed to another patient. Despite attempts to save the patient’s life, she died. The bereaved family filed a lawsuit claiming professional negligence. The court recognized that an error was made but ruled that it was ordinary negligence rather than professional negligence.  

Veteran’s Wrong Medication Case

An Air Force veteran in South Carolina visited the Dorn VA Medical Center exhibiting signs of vomiting and nausea. He was administered a medicine known as pegfilgrastim. Unfortunately, he needed a dose of filgrastim instead. Then, the patient did not react well to the medication and suffered a fatal lung injury. A syringe mix-up was the cause of death, and this was all revealed in an investigation. The family of the deceased filed a malpractice claim against the VA hospital. The institution did not accept liability but agreed to an $800,000 settlement.

Get Expert Help With Prescription Medication Errors 

You’ve read some examples of what happens when medical staff errors result in malpractice cases. If you, a family member or friend, are in a similar situation, you would want the best advice and representation. We want to help you. Get in touch with us for a free case evaluation

Who Can You Trust with Your Case?

Have you or a loved one been injured due to negligence? We want to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you believe you have a case; time is an important factor. Interested in learning more? Get in touch with us so we can better evaluate and serve your needs in getting the justice your loved one deserves. You may very well be entitled to compensation.


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