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Medication errors are a bitter pill to swallow

If you are one of the 10,000 people who are victims every day of injuries due to medical errors, believe it or not, you are fortunate. Approximately 400,000 others die annually from mistakes at the hands of negligent doctors and nurses, making medical errors the third most common cause of death in the United States.

In addition to surgical mistakes, misdiagnosis and unchecked infections, medication mistakes are responsible for the injury and death of millions of people each year. In fact, one person dies each day from a medication error.

No good reasons

Like more than half of the people in Pennsylvania and across the country, you may take multiple medications for various ailments. Chances are that you received these prescriptions from different doctors and specialists, to whom you were referred by your primary care giver. Some analysts say this is the key to the increasing number of critical and fatal errors in medications. A fragmented medical system where patients see numerous physicians -- even while admitted to the hospital -- may lead to misinformation and mistakes, including:

  • Prescribing the wrong drug
  • Prescribing the wrong dosage
  • Omitting a dose or giving it at the wrong time
  • Administering the drug incorrectly

A breakdown in communication may also be the cause of the error that resulted in your injury. Whether your doctor uses an old-fashioned prescription pad or high tech electronic prescriptions, there are still multiple places in the chain for mistakes to occur, especially in a hospital setting. Some common reasons why you may have been the victim of a medication mistake include:

  • A distracted or fatigued nurse
  • A nurse who lacked competence in administering medications or knowledge of the drugs
  • A medical professional who failed to check your chart for allergies, previous doses or changed medical orders
  • A health care provider who failed to chart critical information that would affect your medication

To prevent medical mistakes, hospitals are required to have protocol in place, such as checking your identification bracelet at the beginning of each interaction. Nurses can help themselves by staying educated about drugs and their potential dangers so they can recognize mistakes or oversights. Additionally, even if they made a medication error, your medical staff should have noticed signs of distress or adverse reaction to the medicine they administered. If they failed to act quickly, the delay likely compounded your injury.

You have the right to receive a high standard of care when you seek medical treatment. When doctors, nurses or other medical professionals fail to provide that level of care, you are the one who suffers. If a medication mistake caused you to suffer an injury or illness, you have every right to explore the options available to you for seeking potential restitution.

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