In 2010, a couple gave birth to a son who was four months premature. The parents stayed by their baby’s bedside for six weeks in the hospital, caring for and nurturing their delicate newborn. On October 15, 2010, the baby had heart surgery but suddenly died from unknown causes.
An investigation into the infant’s sudden and unexpected death determined that a pharmacy technician using an electronic system entered the incorrect information for the baby that resulted in a massive unintended overdose of sodium chloride, resulting in the baby’s death.
This tragic incident may have been avoided had the automated alerts in the IV compounding machine been turned on. The pharmacy error was further complicated by the label on the IV bag stating the incorrect concentration of the solution. The identification of the pharmacy mistake was delayed when a lab technician reading the infant’s blood test results believed that the abnormally high sodium indication was an inaccurate test result.
Upon discovering the pharmacy error and other medical mistakes that contributed to the unfortunate death of the baby, the hospital implemented changes in policies and procedures to avoid future similar pharmacy errors, including activating alerts in the IV compounder machines and further strengthening checks before medications leave the pharmacy.
The hospital has settled the medical malpractice lawsuit that had been brought on behalf of the infant’s parents, in the amount of $8.25 million, which settlement was approved by the court on April 5, 2012.
Medication errors by hospitals and retail pharmacies unfortunately are not uncommon. Many medications have similar sounding names or similar spellings that may result in the wrong medications being filled. The dosages of many medications vary according to what the medical care providers prescribed. A pharmacist or less-trained pharmacy technician may intend to fill a prescription with 0.5 ml of a medication but instead fill the prescription with 5 ml, which may be disastrous for the patient if the mistake is not caught before the medication leaves the pharmacy and is administered to the patient.
The increasing use of electronic devices and computer software in pharmacies to lessen the likelihood of a wrong prescription being filled have reduced pharmacy mistakes but human error continues to be a major source of pharmacy errors. A computer may catch and alert to a pharmacy error in filling a prescription but only if the human inputs the full and correct information into the computer. Mistakes can occur when a pharmacist or pharmacy assistant who is used to filling certain medications at certain dosages puts the “usual” dosing information into the pharmacy computer for a patient whose prescription differs from the typical dosage. Complacency and routine in filling medications may also result in inadvertant pharmacy errors.
The vast majority of pharmacy errors are due to negligence and are unintentional. Nonetheless, the unintended injuries suffered as a result of a medication error are no less serious, permanent, and painful if the error was “simply a mistake.”
If you or a loved one suffered injuries or losses as a result of a medication error, pharmacy mistake, or pharmacy error in filling a prescription, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses. The prompt assistance from a medical malpractice attorney in your local area may help you determine if you have a valid claim for pharmacy negligence.
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