What to Do If a Doctor Overlooks a Known Drug Allergy

female patient refusing medication from a doctor

Severe allergic reaction to medication is classified as a “never event.” In the medical profession, never events are preventable errors that can seriously harm patients and even result in the death of a patient. A medical malpractice lawyer can evaluate the circumstances of an adverse medication reaction to determine if a doctor or other medical professional was negligent in overlooking a drug allergy.

Multiple issues of negligence may be involved in medication errors. Each of the following may be considered a breach of the doctor’s “duty of care,” or the obligation to avoid actions or omissions that can cause harm to patients:

  • Failure to take a complete medical history
  • Errors in reviewing the patient’s chart, clinical notes, and other medical records
  • Improper monitoring of a patient’s reaction to a new medication
  • Failure to diagnose an allergic reaction
  • Delayed treatment of an allergic reaction

Klein Lawyers can help if you or a loved one suffered an allergic reaction due to a medication error. Please call (604) 874-7171 today for a FREE consultation with a medical malpractice lawyer. Klein Lawyers serves clients in Vancouver and throughout British Columbia.

Steps to Take If You Suffer Injury from a Drug Allergy

The symptoms of an allergic reaction to a drug can vary. Some patients experience a rash or hives, while others face more serious issues.

If you have been recently prescribed a new drug and you believe you are having an allergic reaction, here is what you should do (NOTE: The following is offered for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice):

1. Seek Medical Care

When starting a new medication, it is important to read the label so you are aware of all potential adverse effects. You should get medical attention as soon as possible if you experience any of the following:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Feeling that the throat and airways are closing up
  • Swelling of the face and hands
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Weakened pulse
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

These are symptoms of anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction that can be life-threatening without prompt intervention. In addition to going to the emergency room, you should speak to your doctor as soon as possible about discontinuing or modifying your medication.

Other types of allergic reactions to a medication should also be taken seriously. Pay attention to issues such as fatigue, shortness of breath, swollen glands, joint pain, and other symptoms that begin shortly after you start taking a new medication, as these could also be indicative of a drug allergy.

2. Talk to Your Doctor About Changing Your Medication

If you suffer an allergic reaction to a drug, your doctor should take steps to manage cessation of the medication. This may involve taking you off the medication immediately or stopping gradually to avoid withdrawal. Your doctor should also update your chart so other medical professionals involved in your care both now and in the future will be aware of the drug allergy.

These are the steps a competent doctor or other healthcare provider would reasonably be expected to take when a patient experiences an allergic reaction to medication. Legally, this expectation is known as the “standard of care.” Medical professionals who fail to uphold the standard of care and cause harm to patients as a result may be held liable for medication errors and other types of medical negligence via a malpractice claim.

Read More: Do I Have a Case for Medical Negligence?

3. Get a Second Opinion

The majority of medical professionals will promptly recognize that they made a mistake in overlooking a patient’s drug allergy and take steps to rectify it. However, this is not always the case. The consequences can be severe if a doctor fails to take your symptoms seriously or delays treatment of an allergic reaction.

If you are dissatisfied with how your doctor is handling your care, you should not hesitate to see a different doctor. Adverse drug reactions should always be taken seriously, and any delay or attempt to downplay the severity of a medication error on the doctor’s part is cause for alarm.

4. Make a Complaint

Patients who are dissatisfied with the care provided by a doctor can make a clinical care and conduct complaint to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia. Complaints from patients are investigated to determine if a registered physician’s conduct falls below the practice standards established by the College. (For example, it may be determined that a medication error violated the practice standard concerning the Disclosure of Adverse or Harmful Events.)

It is important to note that making a complaint to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia is entirely separate from bringing a medical malpractice claim. Furthermore, just because the College chooses to investigate your complaint does not automatically mean that a claim against your doctor is viable.

However, making a complaint can bring serious issues to the attention of the regulatory body responsible for investigating medical errors and misconduct in British Columbia. Submitting a complaint could help to ensure that other patients do not suffer the same harm you have as a result of a physician’s negligence.

5. Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Medication errors can have a serious impact on your health and finances. If a doctor overlooked a drug allergy and you suffered a severe allergic reaction as a result, it is in your best interest to speak to a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.

You have a limited time to take legal action. Medical malpractice claims in British Columbia are subject to a limitation period of just 2 years from the date the injury is discovered, or ought reasonably to have been discovered.

Furthermore, it can be difficult for patients to know if they have a viable medical malpractice claim. You need to prove that the drug allergy was accurately documented; that the doctor overlooked or ignored a known allergy; and that you suffered injury and damages due to errors in monitoring, diagnosing, or treating an adverse reaction.

Medical malpractice claims are complex. A medical malpractice lawyer can investigate on your behalf to identify a medication error on the doctor’s part. Your lawyer can also enlist expert witnesses to provide testimony on key elements of your claim such as causation, the nature and severity of the injury, and the damages you are due.

Read More: Can You Sue a Doctor in BC?

Klein Lawyers Can Help

For more than 20 years, Klein Lawyers has been a leader in multiple areas of complex litigation. We have achieved significant results on behalf of clients who have suffered injuries due to the negligence or wrongdoing of individuals, institutions, and more.

Proving that a doctor knew or should have known about a drug allergy is challenging. Likewise, demonstrating that the medication error caused you harm which led to damages is not always straightforward.

At Klein Lawyers, we know the challenges of suing a doctor for medical malpractice. Our team is committed to protecting your rights and obtaining maximum compensation on your behalf.