Lehigh Valley: 610-435-7400

Philadelphia: 215-567-6616

Who Should Take Responsibility for a Prescription Medication Error?

Who Is Liable for a Prescription Medication Error?

More than 131 million Americans use at least one prescription medication every day, and the average American takes four prescription medications daily. Each year, between 7,000 and 9,000 Americans die as a result of prescription medication errors. After a prescription medication error, a patient or their family may want to work with an Allentown personal injury attorney and take legal action against those who are responsible for the error.

Types of Prescription Errors Made by Healthcare Personnel

Prescription medication errors can happen in many different ways, including
  • Failing to prescribe or dispense a needed medication
  • Prescribing the wrong medication
  • Providing the medication too late
  • Administering the medication at the wrong time
  • Prescribing an unauthorized medication
  • Using the incorrect route of medication administration
  • Delivering the wrong preparation or dose of medication
  • Failing to consider drug interactions
  • Not following prescribing rules for the medication

Medication Errors Caused by Patients

Patients may also be responsible for medication errors. They might forget they took their medication and take it again. Prescription instructions may confuse a patient, so they could take their medication at the wrong time of the day. Some medications must be taken with food, and others require an empty stomach and fasting for a specific period of time after taking the medicine.

How Do Medication Errors Happen?

Most prescription medication errors are caused by human error. For example, illegible handwriting on a written prescription or in a patient's medical chart may cause a dosing or timing error. Malfunctioning equipment, such as IV pumps, might also cause medication administration errors. A mislabeled pill bottle or manufacturing error could lead to a medication error for one or more patients. Overworked healthcare personnel may not have the time to read through notes or long instructions. A patient might fail to provide their full list of medications to a healthcare provider or pharmacist, which could lead to drug interactions. The room for error is almost limitless.

Where Do Prescription Medication Errors Occur?

Medication errors may take place in many different environments. The error could happen at the doctor's office, a health clinic, an ambulatory surgery center, the hospital, a nursing home, hospice or a pharmacy. Healthcare facility audits show that about one in five medication administrations in hospitals is done in error. Studies also show that between 8% and 25% of medication administrations in clinics are done in error. At home, patients cause errors in medication administration between 2% and 33% of the time.

How Do the Courts Determine Responsibility for Medication Errors?

In Pennsylvania, the courts look at several factors when determining who is liable for prescription medication errors. The location of where the error took place is a top factor. If the error occurred in a hospital or clinic, the court may find that healthcare personnel are liable for the error. If the prescription was written for the wrong dose, route, frequency or timing, courts may find the prescriber in error. In Pennsylvania, nurse practitioners and physicians may be liable for prescription errors. If the wrong dose, formulation or medication was dispensed at a pharmacy, the pharmacist may be liable for the error. If a nurse or doctor failed to list all of the patient's current medications and co-morbid conditions, they could be responsible for the error. In the case of malfunctioning equipment, the person who set up the equipment or programmed it may be liable. The manufacturer of the equipment may also bear legal responsibility. If you or your loved one is the victim of a medication error, a consultation with our Allentown personal injury attorney could help you protect your rights. For more information, contact the law office of Metzger & Kleiner in Lehigh Valley at 610-435-7400 or our Philadelphia location at 215-567-6616. You may also fill out our online contact form, and an associate will contact you to schedule a consultation.

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