When Is a Medication Error Worth Suing Over?
Medication errors are disturbingly common in the United States. At least one well-respected study determined that over 1.5 million people are injured or killed by medication errors each year. These errors include mistakes made in prescribing and administering medication as well as mistakes patients make in taking medication. An estimated 26-32% of medication errors are administration errors.
Many of these errors take place in hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities. The estimated financial cost of treating injuries relating to medication errors in hospitals alone is upwards of $3.5 billion dollars per year. That's not a typo: this is a multi-billion dollar problem on a national level. It has been repeatedly reported that medication errors cause 98,000 deaths per year, but recent studies suggest that number may be far higher.
On a personal level, medication errors have not only financial costs, but, of course, personal ones. If you trusted your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist, and they prescribed or administered medicine that sickened you or even caused the death of a loved one, that's medical malpractice.
How Medication Errors Happen
Some of the medication errors in the figure above were the result of a patient making a mistake when taking his or own medicine — taking the wrong medicine, or taking the wrong dose. But others are preventable errors made by trusted professionals. These include:
- Physicians who don't check a patient's existing medicines and prescribe something that is contraindicated and could cause a dangerous interaction;
- Nurses administering the wrong medication or the wrong dose of a medication either orally, in an IV drip or through an NG tube;
- Physicians who misdiagnose an illness, resulting in the wrong medicine being prescribed;
- Physicians whose unclear handwriting on a prescription results in the pharmacist dispensing the wrong medication or dosage.
You would think that if a medication error occurred in a hospital, nursing home, or other long-term care facility, that it would reported to the patient or to a family member. Typically, however, this does not happen, meaning the patient or family may only suspect the cause of the sudden resulting sickness or injury.
What to Do if You Suspect Medication Error
If you even suspect that you or a loved one were injured by a medication error, you should take action, especially if the harm suffered was severe or irreversible. Statutes of limitation mean you have only a limited period of time to pursue a case. A consultation with an experienced Oregon medical malpractice attorney is the first step in knowing whether and how to proceed. An ethical, knowledgeable attorney will know the right questions to ask and how to investigate your case.
We invite you to contact Huegli Fraser if you believe that your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist made a medication error. We will listen to the facts of your case, help you understand how Oregon medical malpractice law applies in your situation, review your options with you, and help you decide on the best course of action.
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.