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Medication Errors Can Mean Tragedy

We tend to think of medication as life-saving, but it can also be life-ending. When doctors make mistakes and give patients a wrong dose of medication, too much medication, or a deadly combination of drugs, patients end up suffering greatly – sometimes, even dying.

This was what happened in the tragic and senseless case of 2-year-old Emily Jerry, who was receiving treatment for an abdominal tumor. After getting chemotherapy, Emily was finally cancer-free, but to be cautious, doctors recommended that she get her final scheduled chemotherapy session. On her last day in the hospital, a pharmacy technician prepared a chemo bag with 20 times the recommended dose. This fatal error left little Emily on life support. And in three days, she was gone.

Cases like Emily’s should be non-existent, yet they’re not. Human error will probably be part of medicine for the foreseeable future, but it doesn’t have to be a deadly one. If hospitals and clinics follow safeguards and act in a preventative way, these cases can be substantially minimalized. In Emily’s situation, it was later discovered that on the day she was given the deadly dose, the hospital pharmacy was short-staffed, having technical issues, and dealing with a backlog of orders. That is simply unacceptable.

And her case is nowhere near as rare as it should be. A Johns Hopkins study found that “more than 250,000 people in the U.S. die every year from medical errors.” Other reports point to the number possibly being as high as 440,000. This makes medical errors the third-leading cause of death in America after heart disease and cancer.

How Patients Can Protect Themselves Against Medication Errors

We trust that our physicians know exactly what they are doing, and we don’t consider that they might be having a bad day or be distracted or tired. Although most physicians are excellent at their job, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and double check. Do not leave everything up to your doctor – instead, take an active role in your health.

Too often, people only know the pills they’re taking by color or size. This is dangerous, especially when you have more than one healthcare provider. Your providers do not have a unified computer system that lets them see what other medications you might be taking, and you might forget to mention certain medications out of forgetfulness or because you don’t think they’re important, like over-the-counter cough syrup. That’s how dangerous mix-ups take place. Certain prescriptions should never be taken together, or they might cause harmful side effects when they interact. Or you might be taking two different prescriptions that do the exact same thing.

Hopefully, one day a centralized system will be available to providers so they can more easily track every single patient’s medications. Right now, it is up to doctors and their patients to ensure that they are staying on top of their drug intake.

Make sure to educate yourself on every single prescription you’re taking and what it is you are taking it for. Read up on the side effects, as well as what medications might counteract it.

  • Don’t be afraid of asking questions. You should be 100% comfortable with the instructions of how to take your medication. If you have any uncertainty, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
  • Tell your doctor about every single pill you take, even if it’s a multivitamin or an herbal supplement. Some drugs can clash even with herbs. Letting your doctor have a clear picture of what you’re taking will help to avoid any medication errors.
  • Never self-diagnose and take medication prescribed for someone else, or give your prescriptions to others. Even if you might have similar symptoms, it is not worth the risk.
  • Make sure to keep a calendar of when you take which medication so that you don’t end up taking a double or triple dose.
  • Get a pill organizer to help keep track of all your medication.
  • Pay attention when getting a refill. If your pills look different than usual, in color or shape, speak with a pharmacist at once.

When you are in the hospital and suffering from a medical issue, it can be difficult to concentrate on things like what drug to take when. It’s a good idea to have a family member or friend come with you and help you write down your dosage and the name of your medications, and confirm it with the hospital staff.

If You Suspect Doctor Error, Contact Us

Unfortunately, no patient can prevent against being harmed by a healthcare provider’s mistake. If you or a loved one suffered an injury due to prescription error, you’ve come to the right place. The skilled NY medical malpractice lawyers at Pollack, Pollack, Isaac & DeCicco, LLP can help you pursue a medical malpractice claim so you can be compensated for the unjust physical and mental anguish you have been put through.

Our attorneys are skilled at dealing with healthcare professionals, and we are committed to fighting for the rights of injured patients. We are here to help you. Call The Case Handler team at PPID today 212-203-4795.


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