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Medications are a common therapeutic intervention in Ontario’s health care system. Hundreds of thousands of Ontarians take or receive medications every day, and the vast majority of medication errors are entirely preventable. When a medication error does occur, the consequences can be dire. Improperly prescribed, identified, dosed, or administered medications can cause serious injury, disability or death.
Although doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other medical practitioners have systems to reduce medication errors, mistakes can happen, and when they do, it is medical malpractice.
If you or a loved one has been hurt by such an error, you are not alone. The medication errors team at Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers will gladly look into the circumstances behind your injury to determine if we can help you to be compensated for the damage done.
What is a medication error?
A medication error is a mistake with the prescription, identification or dosing of a medication. These errors can be related to a medication product itself or the practice and procedure of prescribing, transcribing, ordering, compounding, dispensing, distributing, administering and/or monitoring medications.
Approximately half of all medication errors occur during their administration. Some of the most common of these errors include wrong:
- route of administration/delivery.
- time/taken too often.
Medication errors can involve both prescription and over-the-counter medications. Medication errors are distinct from adverse reactions or side effects from medications that are properly prescribed and administered to a person.
The Canadian Medication Incident Reporting and Prevention System conducted a five-year analysis of reported incidents and found the three medications most frequently involved in harm incidents across all health care settings were insulin (6.1%), hydromorphone (5.9%), and morphine (2.8%). The three medications most often reported in incidents involving severe harm or death across all settings were hydromorphone (11.1%), morphine (6.6%), and methotrexate (5.3%).
Who is at greatest risk of a medication error?
According to Ontario Health, the groups at greatest risk of harm related to medication safety incidents include children and youth, older or elderly people, and people:
- taking multiple medications (polypharmacy).
- who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- with mental health conditions.
- with mild cognitive impairment or dementia.
- with a first language other than English (or a first language different from the medical practitioner’s first language).
- with disabilities that make communication difficult.
- with learning disabilities.
- with low literacy or health literacy.
- who have religious restrictions.
- who are of low socioeconomic status or do not have a drug plan, making access to medication difficult.
Certain situations have a higher risk of serious patient harm when errors occur, including transitions in care between healthcare providers or settings such as home, hospital and residential care institutions. People who belong to multiple high-risk groups also have a greater likelihood of experiencing a medication error. For example, more than half of people aged 75 or older take more than five medications concurrently, and three in five residents of Ontario long-term care homes take 10 or more different prescription medications concurrently.
When you’ve been hurt.
Some medication errors become evident within minutes of administering a drug. Others will take hours, days or longer to detect. If you notice any of the following symptoms after taking medication, exercise caution and consult a medical practitioner (including TeleHealth or your pharmacist) to determine if and when you should seek an examination:
- abnormal heartbeat.
- trouble breathing.
- lethargy/abnormal sleep.
- dizziness/loss of balance.
- severe nausea and vomiting.
- skin rash.
In the most serious cases, a medication error can result in severe injury, permanent disability or death. If a person under the care of a medical practitioner experiences an unexpected outcome - especially if they are receiving in-patient care at a hospital or long-term care facility - nursing medication errors and/or medication errors in a hospital - it is important to investigate circumstances behind what occurred.
Protecting yourself or your loved ones.
Although medical practitioners bear significant responsibility for ensuring medications are prescribed and administered safely, each of us can take steps to reduce the risk of a medication error:
Keep an accurate and up-to-date list of medications - Maintaining a list of all medications a person is currently taking that includes the name, dosage, frequency and route of administration for each drug can help medical practitioners and providers to determine if anticipated treatment could cause interactions between medications.
Review medications with a pharmacist - People taking multiple medications should periodically review their medications with pharmacists to ensure there are no interactions between medications. Pharmacies can also produce blister packs which group medications according to dose and frequency to prevent a person from taking the wrong medications at the wrong times or taking more medication than prescribed.
Be your own advocate - Numerous medical websites provide information about a medication’s potential interactions. Before beginning any new medication, consult these types of sources and ask your medical practitioner questions if you are concerned about its effects or interactions.
If you’ve been hurt by a medication error, our medical malpractice lawyers can help.
Discovering that a preventable error may have caused harm to you or your loved one is difficult enough. Learning that another person’s negligence caused or contributed to this harm can compound the hurt. Fortunately, if you or a loved one was hurt due to such an error, you are not alone. The medication error team at Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers can help you file a claim for compensation and damages.
If you choose to file a claim through the Gluckstein team, we will be there to support you every step of the way. Our renowned client liaisons will be your dedicated point of contact to answer your questions throughout the process, connect you with helpful resources, and keep up to date on how you’re doing and feeling. At Gluckstein Lawyers, we treat our clients like our own family. Even once your case is resolved, our interest in your well-being won’t disappear. As many of our past clients will tell you, the trusted relationship they built with our team of medication error lawyers during legal proceedings has developed into a lasting friendship as we keep in touch to see how the funds we helped them access are used to transform their lives for the better.
With little to lose and so much to gain, take the first step on the road to a better life by contacting Gluckstein Lawyers to discuss your medical malpractice claim. Together, we can work to access the funds you need and deserve for the harm done to you by another person’s negligence.
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At Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers, the initial meeting is free and without obligation on your part – and we never charge you legal fees until your claim is settled.