How to Protect Yourself from Medication Error

Everyone says that doctors have the worst handwriting. The fact seems to be part of our cultural knowledge. Have you ever taken a look at your prescription and tried to figure out what medication it says you will be taking for the next two weeks, or perhaps even the rest of your life?

It’s fun to joke about how such an educated and prestigious population has somehow lost the basic handwriting skills we all learn in elementary school – until that quirk becomes a matter of life and death. Medications impact the body in complex ways. Their effects are dose dependent. They interact with one another. They must be taken on a specific schedule. They can save a life, and they can end one just as easily.

No Laughing Matter

Two high profile cases in Washington demonstrate the tragedy that can result from medication errors. In the case of Gary Clezie, a routine outpatient orthoscopic shoulder surgery became fatal due to a series of nursing errors. One of those errors was the misadministration of pain medication. Consider also the case at Seattle Children’s Hospital in which an overdose of calcium chloride killed a child. And that was not the first or even last time such a mistake occurred.

These incidents took place in hospitals where highly trained medical staff is in charge of interpreting and administrating medications. They highlight the potential serious consequences from even a slight miscommunication on drug, dosage or timing.

There is No Such Thing as a Stupid Question

At least not when it comes to your medication. No one is free from error, no matter how proficient they are in their profession, and that includes doctors and pharmacists. The Washington State Medical Association recommends a few simple steps to help you ensure that you do not become a victim of medication error.

At the doctor’s office:

  • Create a list of all prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements that you are taking. Take it with you to every doctor’s appointment.
  • Inform every doctor involved in your care of any allergies or adverse reactions to medicines, each time they write you a prescription.
  • Look at your prescription. If you cannot read it, have them rewrite it so that you can. You don’t want your pharmacist to have to do any guesswork.

Ask questions about your prescription such as:

  • What is this for?
  • How and when should I take it?
  • Are there any side effects and what are they?
  • Should I avoid any types of food, drink or activities?

At the pharmacist:

  • Double check at your pharmacy that the information on the package matches your prescription. Check both the drug name and the dosage.
  • Clarify when to take each dose.
  • If the medicine is liquid, ask how to measure it.
  • Request written information on side effects.

If a Mistake is Made

However careful you are, there is a potential for medication error. If you or a loved one has been harmed by a medication error you may be entitled to compensation. Contact us for a free consultation with one of our skilled attorneys to discuss your rights and options. We are dedicated to achieving justice and full compensation for every one of our clients.