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Patients kept in the dark about medication mistakes

| Jan 30, 2013 | Medical Malpractice |

Physicians just like all other workers make mistakes. They fail to diagnose patients’ ailments, perform inappropriate medical procedures and prescribe the wrong medications. A recent study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine shows that physicians in Chicago and elsewhere are increasingly less likely to admit to medication error mistakes; however, it is a dangerous omission that affects not only patients, but family members and hospital staff as well.

Although the study did not reveal significantly different findings about the frequency of medication errors, researchers said the project showed a significant shift in the attitude toward these mistakes. Researchers knew the mistakes occurred, but they did not fully understand how physicians and hospital staff responded to the errors.

Further research shows that most medication errors happen in intensive care units, or ICUs. These departments house the most critically injured or ill patients, many of whom are unstable and vulnerable to serious injury from medication mistakes. Most mistakes in the ICU involve failure to administer a medication, though other errors include incorrect dosages and failed medical equipment such as IV lines.

Shockingly, in more than half of the cases, no corrective action was taken after the medical error occurred. Even more disconcerting is the fact that the staff members who made the mistakes were rarely notified about their errors. The patient and family members are only told about the errors in about two percent of cases, according to the report, a number that falls far below the total disclosure recommendations provided by professional doctors’ organizations.

Not only are medication errors potentially deadly; they also cost hospitals about $2.8 million each year. According to experts, hospitals and other medical facilities could save lives and capital if they instituted more stringent medication monitoring programs.

Victims of medication errors can sustain serious injury because of these mistakes. Civil suits may be appropriate after such events, allowing patients to recover damages for pain and suffering as well as other compensatory damages.

Source: The Chicago Tribune, “Patients rarely told about medication errors,” Andrew M. Seaman, Jan. 11, 2013.