Furr & Henshaw
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Medication errors can be simple and deadly at the same time

The medical profession by necessity is one that is highly detail-oriented. The margin for error in making a timely and correct diagnosis, or in performing a surgical procedure, is often very small; and the consequences for even a seemingly minor mistake can be disproportionately serious. A good example of this phenomenon is when health care workers commit errors with medications.

When preventive measures fail to prevent a medication error, it can still be necessary to work with a personal injury law firm that has experience with medication error cases to address the negative physical consequences that can ensue.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration works to reduce the risk of medication errors, but as the errors below suggest the task is a difficult one because of the ease with which confusion can creep into the process of prescribing and administering prescribed drugs. Consider the following examples from the FDA website on the subject:

  • An incorrectly-programmed morphine pump administered too much of the drug to a patient, nearly killing her.
  • A prescription for a drug known as Taxol was mistranslated between the doctor and the pharmacist as Taxotere, a different drug.
  • A dosage error resulted in the death of a patient when a medication that should have been administered at the dosage of 10 milligrams a week was misapplied as 10 milligrams a day.
  • Another patient died when a dosage of 20 units of insulin was mistaken for 200.

The FDA recommends several procedural and policy-based ways to reduce the frequency of medication errors like those above, like more use of bar code scanning to properly identify drugs, or better differentiation among drug names to lower the risk of confusing one for another, or to make drug information labeling more informative and easier to understand. These may reduce how often these kinds of mistakes happen, but complete elimination of the risk is probably impossible.

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