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Medication Errors

Despite being identified as “never events”, hospital medication errors harm hundreds of thousands of patients each year.

When patients seek medical attention, the goal and the outcome is most often the administration or prescription of medication.  The single most common treatment, no matter what the medical issue, is medication.

Patients must trust and rely on their healthcare providers in the prescription and administration of these medications.  Far too often, this trust is misplaced.  The rates of medication errors are astonishing.  So too are the consequences.

Mediation errors in hospitals are among the “never events” identified by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Yet, medication errors will affect over 5% of hospital patients meaning hundreds of thousands of patients suffer serious personal injury or wrongful death every year by these so-called “never events”.

If you or a loved one has been harmed or killed as a result a medication error in a hospital, it is important to seek legal guidance right away due to the unique rules and deadlines related to medical malpractice claims. The Albuquerque personal injury attorneys at Collins & Collins, P.C. have extensive experience with medical malpractice claims. We can be reached at (505) 242-5958.

Millions Harmed by Medication Errors Each Year

According to reports from the Institute of Medicine has reported a number of troubling findings related to medication error.  They estimate that 1.5 million Americans are harmed by medication errors each and every year.  They further estimate that hospital patients in the United States will on suffer on average one medication error per day.  Finally, and most troubling, they estimate that as many as 7,000 patients die each year as a result of medication errors.

Costs of Medication Errors

An estimated $3 billion is spent every year in added health care costs to deal with these medication errors.
Beyond the human toll, there are also financial consequences.  The Institute of Medicine previously projected that about $3 billion is likely spent every year in added health care costs to deal with the consequences of these errors.  Even then, that number is only a fraction of the total financial toll of these mistakes, because it doesn’t include the tangential costs like lost wages and decreased worker productivity.

These costs are passed on to both the injured patient and the taxpayers.  Not every medication error can be avoided by medical provider and not every error amounts to medical malpractice.  When the error is avoidable and causes serious personal injuries or wrongful death, the patient is entitled to recover for the injuries and damages including lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, permanent injury and other losses.

Causes and Sources of Medication Errors

Medical errors can strike in all settings and occur in various forms.  The causes are myriad, and often include communication problems, poor labeling, and just plain lack of attention to detail.  Some of the more common mistakes include:

  • Dosing Errors:  Taking too much of the drug at one time or doses too close together can cause serious problems.  Certain patients are more vulnerable than others, as there are many examples of infants and the elderly suffering permanent injury or even death as a result of accidental overdoses.
  • Wrong Drug: The process of prescribing a medication, having it filled, and then giving the drug to the patient includes several different steps.  Healthcare providers may accidentally provide the wrong drug at any stage of the process.  This might be caused by misreading the doctor’s handwriting, grabbing the wrong bottle on the shelf, or any number of other errors.  In all cases it can prove harmful or even fatal.
  • Wrong patient:  In some settings, caregivers are swamped with high patient loads.  Sometimes they may accidentally give medication intended for one patient to another.  The same thing can also happen in pharmacies, as drugs may be mistakenly handed out to the wrong person.
  • Deadly Combinations:  It is not uncommon for patients to be taking many different medications at once. Sometimes real harm can result if a certain combination of drugs is taken together.  That is why medical professionals must carefully check patient medical records to ensure that a new prescription will not cause an adverse reaction when interacting with another drug.
  • Allergies:  Some patients cannot take certain medications because of allergies.  It is critical that caregivers recognize and avoid these risks to avoid the prescription of  drugs that end up causing serious harm via allergic reaction.

Do Not Delay – Unique and Sometimes Early Deadlines Apply to Medical Malpractice Claims in New Mexico

If you suspect that you or a loved one may have been hurt by a preventable medication error, it is important that you speak with an attorney experienced in medial malpractice right away.

There are unique deadlines and other requirements that are often present in medical malpractice claims not present in other personal injury cases.  In cases involving a governmental entity such as a a university or county hospital, the first deadline can run in as little as 90 days.  Missing a deadline can bar your claim completely.