Alexander Pope, an 18th century English poet, said “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” That may be true, but it’s difficult to forgive someone when their error causes serious damage.
In the healthcare industry, human error has become one of the leading causes of death, and people in hospitals now refer to serious mistakes as “nevers” which means they are never supposed to happen. There are lots of checks and balances, and yet people are still harmed and killed by “nevers.”
With prescription medications, these mistakes can happen in the hospital, in your doctor’s office, and in your local pharmacy. When does a “never” mistake become malpractice? Malpractice is defined as improper, illegal, or negligent professional activity or treatment, especially by a medical practitioner, lawyer, or public official. These are people who are held to a higher standard by the legal system due to their level of education, training, and the vital nature of their work. If you order a steak medium-rare but they cook it until it’s black, that’s not malpractice. Just a mistake.
Potential for Pharmacy Errors
Because of the logistics involved in getting prescription medication from the source to the patient, there is a real potential for mistakes and malpractice. A doctor writes a prescription, and gives it to the patient. The patient brings it to a pharmacy where a technician usually inputs it into a computer. The pharmacist, who is often multi-tasking and over-worked, must look at the patient’s record and see if there are any other drugs that may interact with the new prescription. A label must be printed, and the correct pills and dosage must be placed in a container. With the right label. And then placed in a bag.
The technician has to make sure the patient is given the right bag. If the name is Ron Smith, does Richard Smith get Ron’s pills? Is the medication explained to the patient? Is the patient clear about how many pills to take and how often?
CBS TV Channel 4 in Miami reported on pharmacy errors in south Florida, and found that “in one case CBS found an allergy drug was given to a patient instead of a high blood pressure medication. In another, a patient got something for acid reflux instead of an anti-depressant. And an arthritis drug was given to someone who needed a medicine for seizures.”
Get Involved to Prevent Pharmacy Errors
As a patient, you play a vital role in your own treatment. Take time to speak with your doctors, the technicians, and the pharmacists and make sure everything is as it should be. Read the labels carefully, check the medicine, check your name, check the dosage. There is a website where you can verify you have the right pills at https://www.drugs.com/ however, if you consider using this website it should be done after you have checked with the pharmacists, doctors, etc and should be done to supplement your due diligence. There are thousands of pills in hundreds of shapes and colors, it’s very confusing.
Experienced Pharmacy Error Attorney
So, we haven’t answered the question “when does a mistake become malpractice?” That can be a murky area of the law that depends on several factors. All pharmacy mistakes are serious, and the prudent thing to do if you are the victim of a mix-up of any kind is the get he advice of a qualified attorney. If you realize you have been given the wrong drug, dosage, or instructions and you think you may have become ill because of someone else’s mistake please contact us. We have dedicated a substantial portion of our practice to prescription errors and we have been working with victims for over 20 years. Please call 954-356-0006 to speak with us.