A nurse in a Southern state was recently indicted for reckless homicide after she allegedly committed a deadly medication error and inadvertently injected a patient with a deadly dose of a paralyzing drug used to keep patients still during surgery instead of a routine sedative when the patient was about to be given a full body scan. The patient died as a result of the medical mistake. The drug appears to have caused the patient, who was otherwise stable, to lose consciousness, suffer cardiac arrest and ultimately be left brain dead. The patient died one day later after being taken off a breathing machine.
Adding insult to the tragic injury, a doctor for the medical facility told the medical examiner’s office that the patient died from bleeding and that any medication errors were purely “hearsay.” This led the medical examiner’s office to decline to investigate because staff believed the patient died a natural death that was outside their jurisdiction.
Almost as astonishing, the deadly mistake occurred in December 2017 but was not publicly revealed until a federal investigation report from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services was made public in November 2018.
Medication errors are one of three of the most common types of medical malpractice cases. About 1.3 million people are injured every year in the United States as a result of medication errors, according to MedicineNet.com. Medication errors are one of the five most common mistakes made by nurses and one of the top errors committed by the medical professionals.
Medication errors can happen in several different ways. In this instance, the patient was simply given the wrong medication. Age seems to play a role in medication errors. Almost half of the fatal medication errors noted in one study occurred in people over the age of 60, perhaps because older people are often on more medications than younger people.
How to Prevent Medication Errors
There are several ways to prevent medication errors.
When your doctor gives you a prescription, ask him to provide you with the name of the drug, the correct dosage and why he is providing you with the drug. Ask about storage requirements and if use of the drug requires any special instructions, according to MedicineNet.com,
In the hospital, ask for the name and an explanation of the purpose of each drug you are given. If you are not able to ask such questions, have a relative or friend accompany you to the hospital so they can ask for this information.
Be sure to tell your doctor the names of all the prescription and non-prescription drugs, dietary supplements, and herbal preparations you are taking every time he or she writes you a new prescription. People often forget that herbal supplements and large amounts of certain vitamins can interact with medications. Providing this type of comprehensive information will aid in preventing another type of medication problem which is undesirable and potentially serious interactions among medications.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s your health. If the name of the drug on your prescription looks different than you expected, if the directions appear different than you thought, or if the pills or medication itself look different, tell your doctor or pharmacist right away. A few questions asked at the right time can prevent you from becoming the victim of a medication error.
If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of a medication error at one of Baltimore’s hospitals, clinics or pharmacies, you need to talk to a Baltimore medical malpractice lawyer. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick have experience handling these cases. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.934.3007 or via our website for a free consultation.