Medical malpractice does not always happen inside an operating or emergency room. Although many acts of negligence are about medical procedures gone bad, other types of medical negligence involve more subtle actions.
It doesn’t always have to be about a wrong turn of a scalpel or an improperly conducted diagnostic examination.
One area of medical malpractice law in California that has received an incredible amount of legal and journalistic scrutiny recently concerns prescription drugs. A patient can successfully undergo an invasive surgical procedure and still come out of it physically and/or mentally scarred because of one or more prescription drug mistakes. The mistakes can be made by healthcare providers at a facility and/or the tens of thousands of pharmacies in the United States that fill physician-ordered scripts.
Let’s learn more about the relationship between prescription drug errors and medical malpractice claims in California.
Types of Prescription Medication Errors
Who can be found legally liable for prescription drug errors? Is it the healthcare provider that treats patients and then writes out drug prescriptions? Do pharmacists have anything to do with drug-related medical negligence claims? The answer is a little of both, depending on the circumstances of a medical malpractice claim.
Nurses, physicians, hospitals, pharmacists, and drug manufacturers all can potentially find themselves inside a civil courtroom facing medical malpractice charges for one or more of the following reasons.
Prescribing the Wrong Drug
Mistakes happen for a number of reasons when it comes to incorrect drug prescriptions. Healthcare providers are frequently pressed for time, which means the old phrase “Haste makes waste” comes into play. Maybe a doctor wrote a prescription for the wrong drug while distracted by another case or by a phone call from a patient. It is not uncommon for healthcare providers to misdiagnose an illness or an injury, and then prescribe the wrong prescription medication.
Proving a healthcare provider prescribed the wrong drug often involves matching notes with diagnostic reports.
Getting the Dose Wrong
Most of us know that trying to read the handwriting of a doctor is akin to trying to read the content of an ancient religious scroll. Healthcare providers are notoriously sloppy with their handwriting, which can lead to prescription drug errors that include administering the wrong dosage. Prescription drugs are typically potent, which is why they receive an exclusive designation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Just a tablet or two dosage mistake can trigger severe long-term side effects for patients that take a prescription medication. For example, a “2” on a prescription order for a dose to be taken every four hours can look like a “3.”
Mislabeling a prescription medication brings another player into the medical malpractice ring: A drug manufacturer. This has nothing to do with haste, distraction, or sloppy handwriting. It’s all about a drug company printing out labels that contain the wrong drug information. The act of medical negligence happens long before a drug appears on a pharmacist’s shelf. Attorneys handling mislabeled drug cases have to determine whether the cases fall under product liability or medical malpractice statutes.
Prescribing Medications that Harm Patients
This act of medical malpractice typically is the fault of the pharmacist completing a prescription drug transaction. One of the primary responsibilities of a pharmacist is to maintain accurate healthcare records of every patient that receives a drug prescription. Allergies are a particular concern, as some prescribed drugs can trigger severe allergic reactions that can include acute respiratory failure.
Forgetting to Advise About Potential Side Effects
If you have watched a commercial promoting a prescription drug, you probably noticed that at least half of the commercial discussed the possible negative side effects of the drug. The healthcare provider that is responsible for educating patients about possible prescription drug side effects can be a physician, nurse, or pharmacist. In fact, all three healthcare providers can be held legally liable for not explaining the possible side effects of a drug to a patient.
Although you should always ask your healthcare provider about the possible side effects of a medication, it is the responsibility of your healthcare provider to explain the side effects to you.
Consult with a California Medical Malpractice Attorney
Prescription drug errors can cause medical conditions that last for several years. If you are a victim of a prescription drug error, act with a sense of urgency by consulting with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. You might qualify for monetary damages that include pain and suffering.