When Medication Errors Become Medical Malpractice

doctor with Rx prescription medication bottle

Medical malpractice events can have serious, life-altering consequences for the victim. A common type of medical malpractice occurs when critical errors are made with medications. A medication error is defined as any event that occurs during the prescription, dispensation, or administration of a medication that could be prevented and that may lead to or cause harm to a patient. Canada is not unique to medication errors, as they can occur in healthcare settings across the globe. Canada has instituted a national program called the Canadian Medication Incident Reporting and Prevention System (CMIRPS) that serves to collect, analyze and share data related to medication errors. Some provinces have also created pharmacy incident reporting systems that collect information regarding medication errors that occur in pharmacies.

We often rely on prescription medications to improve our health, treat the symptoms of an illness or injury, or cure a disease. Prescription medications are a vital part of the Canadian healthcare system. Medications can drastically improve our quality of life. Because of this, we place a lot of trust in the doctors, nurses, and pharmacists who prescribe and administer these medications to us. We trust that we are being given the correct medication in the correct dosage and that the medication is safe for us to use and will produce the desired effect on our health. Unfortunately, medication errors made by medical providers are surprisingly common and can have catastrophic consequences. Instead of providing relief and curative properties, they can damage our bodies and leave us injured.

In some cases, medication errors may be the result of a medical professional’s negligence and thus may constitute medical malpractice. In those cases, the victim may be able to hold the medical provider responsible for their injuries and damages. A medical malpractice lawyer can evaluate the circumstances of a medication error event to determine if a doctor or other medical provider was negligent. In this blog, we will explore what constitutes a medication error, explore how they happen, and examine the consequences.

Types of Errors

Medication errors that can affect the health and safety of a patient and may constitute medical malpractice can occur at any point during the prescribing, dispensing, or administration of a drug. While these errors are often unintentional, they are also typically avoidable. Because prescription medications are so powerful and, for so many, vital to good health and recovery, any of these errors can result in serious harm to a patient. The types of medication errors include:

  • When a doctor prescribes the wrong medication
  • When a doctor prescribes the wrong dosage of medication
  • When a prescription is incorrectly filled by the pharmacist
  • When a pharmacist provides the wrong label for a medication that fails to indicate proper warnings or correct frequency at which the medication should be dispensed
  • When a doctor fails to quickly diagnose and treat an allergic reaction
  • When a medical provider administers the wrong dosage of a medication to a patient
  • When a medical provider administers the wrong drug to a patient
  • When a doctor administers the wrong type of anesthesia or too much or too little anesthesia
  • When a medical provider dispenses or administers the medication at the wrong time
  • When a medical provider incorrectly prepares a medication like incorporating too much or too little diluting solution
  • When a medical provider dispenses or administers a combination of medications which, although they may be safe when taken individually, are harmful when taken together

Errors can also occur during the manufacturing process and can include a medication that is incorrectly packaged, labelled, or formulated. This may be the result of defective equipment or failure to comply with established labelling guidelines. These manufacturing errors can result in medications with incorrect expiration dates or batch numbers being released to pharmacies and hospitals. In Canada, the sale and distribution of pharmaceutical drugs and products is regulated by Health Canada under the Food and Drug Act and Regulations. If these errors result in injury to a patient who is prescribed a medication produced by the manufacturer, that may constitute product liability claims against them.

How They Happen

It is important to understand not only what kinds of errors can occur but how and why they occur. Hospital settings and pharmacies can be busy, stressful workplaces. A variety of factors can contribute to a medication error, such as:

  • The medical team providing care being exhausted and fatigued
  • Insufficient staffing within a hospital, medical facility, or pharmacy setting
  • Illegible handwriting on a prescription
  • Poor communication amongst the medical team
  • Lack of proper supervision of the medical team
  • Failure to implement, clearly communicate, and strictly adhere to processes and protocols for the dispensation of medication
  • Inadequate training of medical team members
  • Improper or incomplete triaging of a patient
  • Failing to review the patient’s past medical history including current and past dedication regime
  • Failing to review the patient’s chart, test results, doctor’s notes, and other medical records
  • Failing to inquire about or acknowledge a patient’s allergy
  • Failing to warn a patient about potential side effects or drug interactions of a prescription
  • Providing incorrect or incomplete advice regarding the usage of a medication such as  timing, frequency, or duration of treatment

Injuries Caused by Medication Errors

The impact and aftermath of a medication error can have serious consequences, and sometimes, sadly, these events are fatal. Patients who do not receive the right medication at the right time may experience delayed recovery, adverse reactions, worsening of their health, or new injuries or illnesses. Outside of the direct harm a medication error can cause, patients and their families who experience them often also must deal with a diminished level of trust in the medical team. Injuries caused by medication errors can include:

  • Brain injury or damage
  • Psychological illness such as depression, suicidal ideation, and anxiety
  • Blood clot
  • Aneurysm
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Rash
  • Hemorrhage
  • Organ damage
  • Respiratory problems

Who Is Responsible for Medication Errors?

It can be difficult to determine who was responsible for a medication error. Determining the underlying cause of a medication error makes these types of medical malpractice cases difficult. Unfortunately, medication errors are underreported, and sometimes medical providers fail to admit they have made a mistake. This can leave the victim to try and figure out why they had an adverse outcome or suffered an unexpected injury. In order to successfully file and win a medication error claim, you need an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to help you prove that negligence occurred.

In medication error claims, negligence can be alleged against anyone who participated in the prescribing, dispensing, or administration of a prescription drug. This can include doctors, surgeons, anaesthesiologists, pharmacists, nurses, and medical institutions. Depending on the unique circumstances of a case, multiple parties can be found negligent and held legally responsible for a victim’s injuries and damages.

In order for a plaintiff to prove their medication error claim, they must be able to prove:

  1. That a duty of care existed between them and the medical provider(s) involved in the prescribing and/or dispensing of the medication.
  2. The medical provider(s) breached the established standard of care in committing or contributing to the medication error.
  3. That the medical provider(s)’ negligence caused their injuries.
  4. The harm or injuries they sustained resulted in substantial losses and damages.

Have You or a Loved One Been Harmed by a Medication Error?

Klein Lawyers handles medication error malpractice cases and has a stellar reputation and an outstanding track record. We understand how to identify instances of malpractice where medication and prescription errors have harmed innocent victims. We have the resources, knowledge, and experience Canadians need to get the justice and compensation they deserve.

We will start by conducting an in-depth investigation of the evidence in your case. We will take the time to really listen to your story, obtain and review any relevant records, and thoroughly evaluate your potential claim. During the case, we will retain key medical experts to establish the critical details of the injury that occurred. We strive to make this process as easy for you as possible, shouldering as much weight as we can. Our aim is that you focus on your life and recovering from your injuries while we focus on your case.

We keep you informed throughout the entire case, so you never feel like you are in the dark. We want you to understand what is going on and feel comfortable asking any questions along the way. Too often, we hear concerns expressed by potential clients about what the process will be like, what they will need to do, how often they will hear from their lawyers, and what will be expected of them. We will make it clear right from the start. You will know what to expect, and we will stay true to our commitment to you. Communication and transparency are important to our team, and you will recognize that as our client.

Klein Lawyers Can Help

Klein Lawyers has over 30 years of success and experience in the legal field. During that time, we have worked hard to earn the trust and respect of Canadians who need legal representation. Working with an experienced lawyer is critical, and our team understands the trust clients place in us when representing them. We value that trust and feel honoured that many clients choose our law firm to fight for them. We are passionate about obtaining the best possible outcome for our clients. While we know it is never easy, we will not stop standing up to medical professionals who harm individuals through their negligence.

Contact Us Today

Contact the Klein Lawyers team today at (604) 874-7171 for a free consultation of your claim with a Vancouver medical malpractice lawyer. We serve clients throughout British Columbia and Canada. There is no obligation, and your consultation is completely confidential. We are here to help victims of medical malpractice receive the justice they deserve.