Are Prescription Errors Considered Medical Negligence? August 31, 2023.

prescription error lawsuit

It is common knowledge you should never share prescription medications because of the risks associated with taking medications not explicitly given to you by a doctor. The hazards of taking an unknown medication are grave. But what happens when your doctor, another healthcare professional, or a pharmacist gives you the wrong medication?

These situations are examples of prescription errors, which do qualify as medical negligence. If it happens to you, consider consulting with a medical errors lawyer who can explain your legal options and rights. 

What Is Medical Negligence?

Medical negligence occurs when you receive inadequate care from a medical provider due to their failure to fulfill their professional duties. The healthcare provider may offer care that is not up to accepted medical standards, make mistakes in care due to not being knowledgeable or paying adequate attention, or fail to diagnose a condition properly.

Prescription errors are a type of medical negligence because they are a preventable event. These mistakes are due to some failure by the healthcare provider or a human error that leads to adverse events for you. 

You may wonder, "How does medical malpractice differ from negligence?" Medical negligence becomes medical malpractice when it causes an injury to the patient. 

How to prove medical negligence is now malpractice involves showing the medical provider had a professional duty to provide you care, did not act in a way the average doctor would have, these actions led to you suffering an injury, and that injury caused you losses or damages. 

Under Ohio law, you have one year from the incident to bring a lawsuit in a medical malpractice matter.

Examples of Prescription Errors

Prescription errors can happen at every level of the process involved in getting medication to you. This includes:

  • Prescribing
  • Dispensing
  • Distributing
  • Monitoring

Prescribing errors usually occur with the doctor. They either write the wrong drug or usage instructions in the prescription, resulting in the actual drug or dosage instructions being incorrect from the start of the process. This type of medication mistake may also include not appropriately assessing drug interactions or paying attention to the patient's allergy information. 

Medication dispensing errors occur when the pharmacist or pharmacy workers do not do their jobs properly. Prescription errors in a pharmacy may happen when workers miscount pills, dispense the incorrect medication, fail to check patient details, or print the wrong instructions for use. It also includes giving a prescription to the incorrect person. 

Distributing errors happen when giving medication to a patient. Various healthcare workers may play a role in this type of scenario. This can include giving drugs at the wrong time, in the wrong dosage, or the incorrect medication.  

Monitoring errors can also involve various medical professionals. These errors occur when the patients don't receive proper oversight when taking medication. 

There are four types of specific prescription error examples:

  1. Wrong drug
  2. Wrong dose
  3. Wrong route of administration
  4. Wrong drug preparation

Wrong Drug Error

wrong drug error occurs when you get the wrong medication. This could happen due to drug names that sound or look alike, medications that look similar, sloppy writing on prescriptions, mix-ups with drugs, or misreading prescription directions. It also includes prescribing inappropriate medication for the condition being treated. 

Wrong Dose Error

Wrong dose errors happen when you get the incorrect amount of a drug or get doses at the wrong times. Bad charting, improper directions on the bottle, or other prescription errors in the pharmacy could cause a dosing error.

Wrong Route of Administration Error

A wrong route of administration error happens when you take a medication the wrong way. A medical provider may give you medication by mouth when it should have been delivered intravenously. A mistake at the pharmacy could also lead to this kind of drug error. 

Wrong Drug Preparation Error

Wrong drug preparation errors are due to mistakes by healthcare professionals. The pharmacist should check medications for proper preparation methods. If you are getting the medication at a facility, your caregiver should also check this info. The most common issue is adding too much or too little water when reconstituting a drug. 

The Negative Effects of Prescription Errors on Patient Safety

When you fail to get the correct medication, you are at risk for an adverse drug event, which could include:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Drug interactions
  • Health complications
  • Financial losses

Allergic reactions can lead to serious health problems, including death. If you are unaware you are allergic, you could delay treatment, which will only worsen the reaction. 

Drug interactions could lead to severe health risks. When drugs interact adversely, you may suffer another health condition, such as a heart attack or internal bleeding. 

Health complications from medication errors can be minor or very serious. You may develop another medical condition as a result, causing long-term or even permanent issues. It could result in a medical event that leads to disability or even an overdose death. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement explains it can also lead to psychological damage that creates a fear of medical care. 

Financial losses from prescription errors might include paying for further medical care and lost income due to missing work. You may have long-term health problems that prevent you from returning to work and require ongoing medical or other types of care, which will significantly add to your financial burden. 

Legal Consequences for Healthcare Professionals

Prescription errors open the door for legal claims against medical professionals. Unfortunately, when looking at how many prescription errors in the U.S. end up in court, the answer is too many. 

Doctors and other professionals learn how to prevent medication errors during their training. The risk of medication error should be zero. So, when a person suffers harm because of a medication error, the caregiver, facility, or professional practice is at risk of a lawsuit.

Medical malpractice claims are civil actions that allow the victim to seek financial compensation. You can file a case against an individual, a facility, or both, depending on the circumstances. 

In some situations, the provider could also face criminal charges, such as involuntary manslaughter. Something like this would happen if someone died due to the error. While this is unusual and an extreme reaction to prescription error claims, it can happen. 

More commonly, the medical professional will face discipline by their licensing board or other authority. Doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and even facilities must maintain their licenses to practice or provide services. This means any form of discipline, such as losing a license, could spell the end of the provider's career. 

In cases of egregious negligence, hospital prescription errors could lead to closure because the facility can no longer operate due to a loss of credentials or licenses.

Secure Legal Representation for Your Medical Negligence Case

Prescription error claims can be tricky to bring to court. Many times, they settle before going to trial. Our attorneys have experience in such cases and can assist you in assessing your claim. 

Contact us today to discuss your prescription error case.