Furr & Henshaw
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How simple negligence can translate into medication errors

The Institute for Safe Medical Practices maintains a program for medication errors reporting. The purpose of the Medication Errors Reporting Program (MERP) is to serve as a clearing house for information about actual medication errors and other potentially dangerous incidents that have taken place in health care settings. Anyone who follows the program can learn from the mistakes of others.

The intent, and presumably the effect, of the MERP is beneficial, yet at the same time it provides a glimpse into some of the ways that inattentiveness or the development of a "shortcut" mindset among medical professionals can lead to disastrous results for patients.

A medication error report analysis prepared in early 2014 illustrates some of the ways in which medication errors have happened:

  • In one incident, a patient was able to bypass a cutoff of medication administered by a battery - powered pump by the simple expedient of turning the pump back on again. The battery had not been removed, and the pump had no safety mechanism to prevent an unauthorized use once it was turned back on. The patient was able to self-medicate for hours until his mother alerted the medical staff about what he was doing.
  • In another incident, a nurse discovered that an automated medication dispensing system had dispensed the wrong medication. It was later discovered that the wrong medicine had somehow been included with a batch of proper medicines, but when the batch was scanned into the automated system only one vial was actually scanned.

The report goes on to list other examples, but the import is clear: Human beings committing negligent mistakes are a real and serious issue when it comes to medication errors. These errors can have grave consequences, and they can occur anywhere, including here in South Carolina.

The MERP is one way to reduce the possibility of medication errors, but even MERP admits that such errors will continue to occur. When they do, the assistance of a personal injury law firm may be the most efficacious way to deal with the consequences of these mistakes.

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