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Who Is Liable When The Medicine Was Prescribed Correctly But Administered Incorrectly?

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Medical malpractice lawsuits are about where the doctor or hospital where the patient suffered a bad outcome deviated from the standard of care, and therefore whether the adverse outcome was preventable.  Since practicing medicine successfully requires making appropriate judgments amid constantly changing circumstances, and since the only people who can make the correct judgments are those with professional levels of knowledge about a certain aspect of the medical profession, expert witnesses must provide testimony about what the standard of care is for a given patient in a given situation.  When a patient in a hospital, nursing home, or other inpatient setting, suffers serious harm as a result of a medication they took, medical malpractice lawyers must determine whether the problem was that a doctor prescribed the wrong medication or that a nurse administered the wrong medication, or even incorrectly administered a medication that would have been beneficial if it had been administered correctly.  If you received an incorrect dose of a medication or were prescribed a drug that is contraindicated for you, contact a South Carolina medical malpractice lawyer.

What Can Go Wrong With Medication Administration?

In hospitals and long-term care facilities, as well as in outpatient clinics, nurses administer doses of medications prescribed by physicians.  In order to become certified, every nurse must demonstrate knowledge of how to administer medication intravenously and by subcutaneous and intramuscular injection.  In hospitals and nursing homes, nurses also distribute oral and sublingual medications to patients one dose at a time.  (In the case of outpatient care, nurses and pharmacists must ensure that patients understand how to take their medication, but then the patients take it without supervision.)  These are some examples of errors that nurses can make when administering medications:

  • Mixing up which pill to give to which patient
  • Accidentally giving an incorrect dose (such as giving two pills instead of one)
  • Failing to supervise nursing home residents to ensure that they do not swallow sublingual medications
  • Not giving the patient enough water to swallow all the pills
  • Not giving food with a medication that must be taken with food
  • Giving the next dose at the incorrect time

These seem like minor errors, but they can cause serious harm.  In all of these cases, the patient’s health would have remained stable if their medication had been administered correctly.  The legal responsibility lies with the nurse and the nurse’s employer (the hospital or nursing home).

The Difference Between Medical Malpractice and Medication Errors

In the case of a medication administration error, the doctor did not make a mistake, and the negligence belongs to the nurse (and therefore, legally, also to the nurse’s employer).  The doctor is liable if they should have known that the risk of giving the patient the medication outweighed the benefit, such as if the medication was contraindicated for the patient because of the patient’s health history or because of another medicine the patient was taking at the same time.  The doctor could have found out this information by reading the patient’s medical charts.

Reach Out to Us Today for Help

A Columbia personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you were harmed as a result of an error by a doctor or nurse.  Contact The Stanley Law Group for a consultation.

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