Drug mix-ups may lead to serious injury or death

Patients deal with doctors, specialists, nurses, pharmacists and other hospital staff routinely when seeking treatment. During treatment, most expect that the right medication and dosage will be prescribed and that there are checks and balances in place to identify medication errors. However, medication errors still occur and may result in a serious injury or death

New Jersey residents will find it interesting to learn that several newborns have recently received a drug intended for management of postpartum atony and hemorrhage, potentially because the drug sounded and/or looked similar to the pediatric drug the newborns were to receive. As a result of this error, to date, at least one fatality has occurred. In one case, an infant was injected with the obstetrics medication instead of the hepatitis B vaccine because the two drugs looked similar.

According to the president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, the medication mix-ups likely occur due to the drugs sounding similar in name, looking alike and being stored in close proximity to each in the same cabinets. All these factors may lead a nurse to administer the wrong drug. A medication safety alert encourages hospital staff to physically separate management of postpartum drugs from injectable pediatric medications, designate specific cabinets for drugs intended for the mother and those intended for the newborn, administer the drugs outside the birthing area, apply labels and discuss the potential for errors with staff.

Despite all the precautions a healthcare provider may take, the potential for a mistake exists. Healthcare providers have an on-going duty to provide a reasonable standard of care and this includes administering the right medication to the right patient. When a medication error occurs, it may adversely impact the patient resulting in serious injury or death. In such a case, the healthcare provider may be liable for damages in a medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit.

A patient or a family that has suffered serious injury or a death in the family due to an avoidable medication error may benefit from consulting with an expert in the area of medical malpractice or a New Jersey wrongful death attorney to understand one’s rights.

Source: Pharmacy Practice News, “Mother-Child Methylergonovine Mix-up Proves Deadly,” David Wild, Feb. 15, 2013