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Who Can Be Legally Liable for a Medication Error?

Medication errors can have serious consequences for patients, including overdoses, adverse drug reactions, hospitalizations and even death. In Pennsylvania, legal action can be taken to hold one or more parties liable in the event of a preventable medication error. Determining liability is one of the first steps you will need to take if you wish to file a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawsuit for a harmful medication error.

Pile of Empty Medication Bottles

Health Care Professionals

All health care professionals, including doctors, nurses, surgeons and dentists, owe a duty of care to their patients. They are legally required to adhere to the medical industry’s high standards of care when treating a patient, including when prescribing or administering a medication. A medical practitioner is responsible for ensuring that his or her patient receives the appropriate medication at the correct dosage, route and frequency.

Correctly prescribing a medication typically requires the following steps:

  • Carefully reviewing the patient’s medical history and current medications
  • Understanding the patient’s allergies
  • Correctly diagnosing the patient’s illness or condition
  • Discussing all of the risks, benefits, side effects and alternatives to a medication
  • Prescribing the most appropriate medication for the patient
  • Prescribing the right dosage and frequency

Falling short of the standards of care and committing a harmful medication error can mean that the medical professional is legally responsible (liable) for a patient’s related harm.  For example, if a health care professional enters the wrong dosage of a medication ordered by a physician into the patient’s electronic medical record and the patients receives the wrong dosage of that medication as a result, that health care professional may be personally held liable for their error.

Medical Facilities

The legal doctrine of vicarious liability means that a health care facility, hospital or clinic can be held legally liable for the errors of health care professionals working at the facility. This is often true even the health care provider is an independent and not technically an employee of the facility. If the practitioner that made a mistake was providing care at a larger institution, the victim may be able to bring a claim against the facility for any harm suffered.

Pharmacies or Drug Dispensaries

Drug administration errors can happen at a hospital for any number of reasons.  A nurse may administer a drug to the wrong patient. The hospital pharmacy may put the wrong drug in a medication bag, resulting in that bag being mislabeled. The wrong dosage of a drug may be entered on a prescription, resulting in a patient receiving too much or too little of a drug. If a pharmacy worker is negligent, such as by mixing up two patients or dispensing the wrong medication to a patient, the pharmacy could be held liable for injuries suffered as a result of the error.

When to Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney

One or more parties may be held legally liable for a medication error that has disastrous consequences for a patient. If you or a loved one has been injured by a medication error, you may be entitled to financial compensation. You should consult with a Philadelphia medication error attorney to investigate the cause of the mistake and pursue legal action to get you the compensation to which you are entitled. Your attorney can thoroughly investigate your case to determine the cause of the medication error. Then, your lawyer can collect evidence against the defendant(s) on your behalf to build a claim and file suit.