Medication errors continue to plague vulnerable patients

When Virginians feel under the weather or suffer from accidents they often trust hospitals and doctors to provide them with competent and proficient care. Beyond this, patients expect to be thoroughly informed and be given all important updates regarding their conditions by their medical care providers. Tragically, many of these expectations are too often left unmet; for instance, a recent study discovered that patients and their families are rarely notified when hospitals make medication errors.

Medication mistake study

The recent study examined roughly 840,000 voluntarily reported medication mistakes that occurred between 1999 and 2005 in 537 different U.S. hospitals. Researchers discovered that around 56,000 of the errors occurred in intensive care units (ICU).

And although most medication errors didn't result in injuries to the patients, the rate at which ICU patients were harmed by medication mistakes was twice that of non-ICU wards - which study authors noted was not particularly startling given the frail condition of many patients in the ICU. However, of the medication errors reviewed that may have caused a patient's death, 18 involved ICU patients and 92 involved non-ICU patients.

Even more concerning, the study discovered that no actions whatsoever were taken following more than half of the medication errors - and only one-third of the hospital staff who committed the medication error were even informed right away that the error occurred.

Furthermore, the lead author of the study, Dr. Asad Latif, told Reuters Health by email, "[A] patient and/or their family is immediately informed when an error occurs barely two percent of the time, despite literature supporting full disclosure and their desire to be promptly informed." So not only are errors continuing to occur, but patients are not being told when they do.

Medical malpractice

When patients are harmed by medical errors, they may be able to hold the hospital responsible for their injuries through a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, medical malpractice is not solely limited to medication errors. In fact, it can also include:

  • Emergency room errors
  • Surgical errors
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Diagnosis errors

If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, it is important to speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney immediately as it is important to collect evidence of the wrongdoing as soon as possible. Not only can a knowledgeable attorney help gather the required evidence, but can also provide advice as to an injured patients rights and options.