Patients should feel confident that their doctors are giving them the proper medicine to treat whatever condition is ailing them. Unfortunately, not only can medication errors happen, but some endanger the health of patients and even cause death.
You may wonder what a medication error actually is. Sometimes a patient receives the wrong medicine and holds a physician accountable in court under the doctrine of medical malpractice. It is important to know whether such a situation applies in your case.
A medication error as a preventable event
The National Center for Biotechnology Information explains that there is no fixed definition of a medication error. However, the key factor is that the error is a preventable action. This means that the doctor or care worker in question should have been able to keep the mistake from occurring.
The NCBI goes on to offer its own definition of a medication error as a preventable event that results in or creates improper use of medication or harm to a patient. The medicine may be in the control of a consumer, patient or a professional in the health care industry.
Different kinds of medicine errors
A major problem with wrong actions involving medicine is that they can happen at many different stages of the treatment process and take various forms. Some common examples include the following:
- Prescribing the wrong medicine
- Incorrectly communicating a drug name to a pharmacy
- Mislabeling the medicine bottle or package
- Not administering the medicine properly
- Giving incorrect instructions for medication use
The consequences of medicine errors result in 7,000 to 9,000 deaths per year in the United States, plus hundreds of thousands of patients who experience a negative effect of some kind. While prevention efforts exist, you should know your options if you suspect your decline in health is due to a medication mistake on the part of your care provider.