When Do Side Effects Turn into Medical Malpractice?
Pharmaceuticals are one of the wonders of modern medical practice, and have greatly extended the length and quality of life enjoyed by millions of people. However, they also come with unavoidable risk that can constitute medical malpractice. Anyone who has been prescribed medication knows about the list of side effects given to every user that outlines the conditions and symptoms a person could suffer, including some that are life-threatening. Doctors are trained to weigh the potential risks and benefits of medication before administering them to a patient, but this training does not always manifest in everyday practice. While only a small percentage of users experience serious side effects, for those that do, the question becomes whether the doctor could have perceived the risk in advance based on the patient’s medical history and known issues with a drug. One particular drug, birth control, is so commonly used that serious side effects are not an issue most consider to be a legitimate concern. However, a tragic story out of New York demonstrates that even everyday medications are not safe for everyone. A young woman was prescribed an intrauterine form of birth control, and suffered brain damage and a heart attack after a hospital failed to identify the birth control as the source of her distress. A discussion of the most common types of medication errors, and how documenting certain information related to these mistakes can help bolster later legal action, will follow below.
Examples of Medication Errors
Medication errors are one of the more common bases for a malpractice lawsuit, and refer to the inappropriate use of medication that causes harm to a patient. These events are often avoidable, though even genuine mistakes can still constitute malpractice, and can stem from a doctor prescribing the wrong medication or a pharmacy providing the wrong medication and/or dosage information. Additionally, the error could be caused by failing to properly assess the adverse drug interactions a person could experience, which is a concern when taking multiple prescription drugs. Other common causes of medication errors include:
- a doctor issuing a prescription for the wrong dosage;
- mistaken administration of the wrong medication by a nurse;
- incorrect product labeling;
- failure to consider a patient’s allergies;
- poor handwriting that results in a pharmacist dispensing a medication with a similar name; and
- failure to sufficiently explain potential serious side effects.
The potential consequences for such errors cannot be overstated, and unfortunately, have resulted in death for some patients. However, those that avoid death could still be left with permanent debilitating injuries, as the story described above shows.
Documenting the Mistake and the After-Effects
Once a problem is apparent, the injured party should try to document his/her understanding of the error and the resulting injuries, if possible. Examples of information that would help a medical malpractice attorney build a strong case for compensation from the pharmacy and/or health care provider include:
- the dates and times the victim visited medical professionals, including pharmacists;
- copies of the original diagnosis and/or prescription;
- documenting any side effects and complications caused by the prescribed drug;
- records of illnesses or new diagnoses made as the result of the medication error; and
- tracking lost time at work and missed wages.
Providing this information to an attorney will assist with obtaining expert reports about whether the professional standard of care was breached, and help the attorney find more evidence to support the case.
Consult a Medical Malpractice Attorney
The intended purpose of medication is to improve a person’s health, and if you suffered an injury because a health care provider was negligent in prescribing, dispensing, administering or monitoring a drug, you may be able to take legal action against them. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado understands how difficult it is to handle injuries from a trusted source, such as a doctor, and will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us for a free consultation.