For patients in need of medical treatment, the ever-present risk of a medication error leading to health complications and even death is an real concern. When patients in Connecticut and elsewhere suffer from an adverse drug event (ADE), the prescribing medical provider may face consequences that will hold them accountable for medical malpractice.
When a medication error occurs, it is the result of an omission or commission of one or more steps in the process from the prescribing of a medication to the patient’s exposure to it. The ADE that results may fall into one of four categories:
- Preventable ADEs, which make up roughly half of all cases and cause any degree of harm to the patient.
- Potential ADEs that did not cause harm to the patient due to luck or were intercepted.
- Ameliorable ADEs, which caused harm to the patient that could have been mitigated.
- Nonpreventable ADEs, which can occur as listed potential side effects.
Who may suffer the most from a preventable ADE
Each year, ADEs cause nearly 700,000 emergency visits and 100,000 hospitalizations, and almost half of these are preventable. Pediatric patients are at higher risk of a preventable ADE when medical providers do not take into account dosages that are appropriate to a child’s weight.
Geriatric patients are also at high risk of becoming victims of a preventable ADE. Nearly one in three adults in the United States take five or more prescription medications, and this number is even higher for many older people who are receiving treatment for multiple health conditions.
Over half of all Medicare patients who suffer from an ADE that requires emergency room hospitalization are taking one or more of the following:
- Oral anticoagulants
- Opioid medications
- Antidiabetic agents
- Antiplatelet agents
Prevention and accountability
The steps to avoiding an unnecessary ADE follow a clear path of accountability for many parties:
- The medical provider’s choice of medication, dosage, frequency and duration, taking into account the patient’s medical history, including allergies and other current medications.
- The transcribing by a hospital nurse and reading by a pharmacist or pharmacist assistant of the prescription.
- The correct dispensing of the medication by the pharmacist, including checking for drug interactions or allergies.
- The administering of the drug correctly by staff and nurses in a hospital or long-term care setting, or by a caregiver or the patient at home.
Filing a successful medical malpractice suit in Connecticut can be quite involved. Under state law, the time limit for filing a medical malpractice claim is two years. Before filing a claim, the injured party must undertake a process of reasonable inquiry to determine the merits of a negligence claim, including the opinion of a qualified medical expert, and submit a reasonable inquiry certificate along with the complaint to the court. There is currently no statutory limit on damages that the injured party may recover.