Medical Negligence

How Medication Errors Lead to Medical Negligence Claims

By LHD Lawyers

In 2022, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) reported that 250,000 people from across the country are hospitalised each year due to problems with prescription medicine. Furthermore, research from the past decade has suggested that the rate of medication administration errors in Australian hospitals could be as high as 5%-10%.

Combined, these findings indicate that millions of Australians could be suffering as a result of these medication errors by doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health system staff.

For patients in Australia who experience harm due to incorrectly and/or improperly administered or prescribed medication by a health professional, it is possible to file a claim and receive much-deserved compensation.

This article will explain how medication errors lead to medical negligence claims and provide important facts, including:

  • The definition of a medication error
  • Common examples of medication errors
  • The consequences of giving patients incorrect prescriptions
  • Whether or not a patient can make a medical negligence claim
  • How to make a medical negligence claim

What is a medication error?

The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention (NCC MERP) defines a medication error as follows: “Any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer.”

In a nutshell, whenever a health professional gives or prescribes medication to a patient, and, due to an error on their part, the patient’s condition worsens, this is considered a serious breach of medication safety. It also opens up the health professional or institution to a lawsuit.

What are common types of medication errors?

There are many ways that a medication error can occur. Here are some common examples:

  • A drug prescription that a doctor handwrote is partially illegible, leading the pharmacist filling it to make a mistake during product labelling.
  • A nurse in a hospital setting administers the proper medication to a patient, but in too-large doses and too frequently.
  • A drug prescribed by a doctor and a completely different medication sound alike, which results in the pharmacist getting them mixed up.
  • A patient’s attending physician doesn’t consider their comorbidities, current medications, or past treatments when prescribing a new medication. The result is that the new medication interacts negatively with a drug that the patient is already taking.

What are the consequences of giving patients wrong prescriptions?

The consequences and side effects of giving patients the wrong prescriptions (or the wrong dosage of the right prescription) can range from negligible to fatal. Adverse events can include:

  • A worsening of pre-existing symptoms
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea
  • Addiction (i.e., to narcotics)
  • Serious bodily injury
  • Death

Obviously, this is a major patient safety issue that should never be ignored. For this reason, whenever a case of medication error arises, patients are encouraged to reach out to reporting programs like the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP). ISMP investigates medication error claims, spreads awareness for preventing medication errors, and agitates for change with government entities, drug manufacturers, and the healthcare community at large.

Can a patient make a medical negligence claim if involved in a medication error?

If you are someone who experienced injury, illness, a worsening of pre-existing symptoms, or a delay in treatment as a result of a medication error – and the error occurred in Australia – you are eligible to make a medical negligence claim. 

This is important because the compensation that you would (potentially) receive for such a claim would cover expenses like: 

  • Financial loss from medical bills, loss of income, and other costs associated with your injury or illness.
  • Pain and suffering caused by the medication error.
  • Future financial loss that you will incur from future treatments and care costs related to your injury or illness.
  • Assistance and care from family members and/or professional carers.
  • Legal costs of pursuing your claim.

How can a patient make a medical negligence claim? 

Making a medical negligence claim isn’t as simple as filing a claim on your auto insurance or for workers compensation. This is a complicated situation that requires a lot of evidence from you, as well as an experienced medical negligence lawyer well-versed in both legal and medical matters expertise to assist you.

If you are interested in starting a claim, please refer to our Guide To Medical Negligence Claims and get a rundown of what the process entails.

Make a medical negligence claim

If you believe you’ve been seriously impacted as a result of medical malpractice, we can help. Our expert medical negligence lawyers will be able to assess your case and help you receive the medical compensation you deserve.

We also have you covered with our No Win No Fee policy so you don’t have to worry about not having the finances to have your case heard. Contact us on 1800 455 725 to arrange a consultation with a medical negligence lawyer today.

Author: James Bodel

LHD Lawyers | Feature Callout

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