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What to Do If Wrong Medication Given to a Patient?

Medical mistakes, such as prescription errors, are all too common in health care, contributing to increased hospital stays, higher inpatient expenses, and unnecessary death.

A report by Johns Hopkins Hospital states that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. In another study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), medical errors resulted in about 75,000 unnecessary deaths in the US.


The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC represent people who have suffered from incorrect medications. If you or a family member have been harmed by a healthcare provider’s mistake, our lawyers can guide you on your first legal steps.

Schedule a free no-obligation consultation through our contact form or call our pharmacy error lawyers at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call). All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.

What Is a Medication Error?

The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error and Prevention (NCCMERP) defines medical error as any preventable event that may lead to inappropriate use of medicines while the medication is in the control of the healthcare provider and the patient.

Medication errors are considered preventable inaccuracies that occur in various healthcare settings. These mistakes can have adverse symptoms for patients, especially when left untreated.

Why Medical Errors Happen

Common causes of medical mistakes include inaccurate diagnosis, incorrect prescriptions, and dosage miscalculation. Other factors such as poor distribution practices, erroneous administration, and failed communication may also contribute to medical inaccuracies.

What Should Be Done If Wrong Medication Given to Patient

Despite the preventive measures to promote patient safety, medical inaccuracies still arise in healthcare settings.

If inaccurate medicines are given to patients, nurses and caregivers must take ownership of the error. They must take corrective actions, including the following:

  • Inform the patient’s physician about the error. Seek an informed decision on how best to address and counteract the potential side effects of the incorrectly administered medicine.
  • The next step is to take the necessary actions depending on the doctor’s recommendation and hospital protocol. The goal is to ensure that minimal or no harm is done to the patient.
  • Make sure that the error is documented and reported. Reporting the event is critical, whether or not the mistake caused harm.
  • The incident must be reported immediately to the nursing supervisor. The responsible nurse is expected to submit an incident report describing what happened, the people involved, and the actions taken.

Who Is Responsible for Medication Errors?

Every healthcare professional providing care must always be concerned about patient safety, practice, and following protocol. People trust and expect them to deliver quality services at all times.

However, even the most cautious healthcare provider makes mistakes. The people who can be held liable for a medical error include:

Physicians Prescribing the Wrong Medications

A physician can be held accountable for prescribing the wrong medicine. They can also be held liable for miscalculation of dosage if the patient suffers injuries after taking a drug with an inaccurate dosage.

Nurses for Wrongful Drug Administration

Nursing professionals are considered negligent if they administer the wrong dose or make a mistake by administering an IV (intravenous route) medicine through ingestion.

Pharmacists for Errors When Filling the Prescriptions

Pharmacists may commit mistakes by incorrectly filling prescriptions. An example is when the pharmacist misreads the physician’s order and gives the inaccurate drugs causing the patient to experience adverse symptoms.

Manufacturers for Mislabeling Medicines

A label helps to ensure that healthcare providers and consumers can quickly identify the medicine, dose, adverse effects, and warnings. Drug manufacturers can also be held liable if a patient suffers from an injury due to mislabeling.

Prevent Medical Errors With the 5 Rights of Medication Safety

Medical oversights can be life-threatening. Healthcare providers, especially nurses, are taught the 5Rs, otherwise known as the Five Rights of Medication Administration.

The 5R principles ensure that the right drug, dosage, and route are given to the right patient at the right time. The 5R principles are designed for the hospital setting; however, parents and caregivers are encouraged to adopt this principle at home, including:

Right Medicines

Giving the incorrect drug can happen, especially during administering multiple medicines. One way to avoid this mistake is by double-checking labels.

Right Dosage

Administering the correct dosage requires double-checking the label to determine the required dosage for the patient. For example, physicians recommend using a dosing cup or syringe when administering medicines in liquid form.

Right Time

Healthcare providers often commit errors when administering multiple medications as it is challenging to keep track of the intervals. Below are some tips to help keep track of the time of drug administration:

  • Follow the label dosing frequency
  • Create a written schedule
  • Remember when the doses are due by setting an alarm

Right Route

An error arises if the medicine is given through an unintended route. For example, providing the meds via an intravenous route is wrong if the physician orders an intramuscular route.

Right Person

Ensure that the medicine is given to the right person by using identifiers, such as the patient’s armband. Also, check the patient’s medical record before administering the medications.

Medical Error FAQs

Inaccuracies in administering medicines are common in healthcare practice. Below are some of the frequently asked questions about this negligence:

What Are Other Ways to Prevent Medication Errors?

In addition to the strict implementation of institutional policies, such as adhering to the 5Rs, below are other preventive measures to prevent future errors:

  • Reconciliation Procedures: Every healthcare facility must adopt a medication reconciliation system when transferring patients from one facility to another. This practice is intended to reduce risk by allowing hospital staff to compare medication orders to the medicines previously given to the patient.
  • Double-Check Procedures: Double-checking is a risk-management practice where nurses ask their colleagues to ascertain the accuracy of the patient’s order. Nurses consider jointly double-checking orders with colleagues as an appropriate practice to prevent future medical inaccuracies.
  • Reading Back to Another Professional: Nurses read back orders to the prescribing doctor to ensure that the prescribed treatment is transcribed correctly. With this process, the nurse can catch issues before any adverse events can harm the patients.
  • Importance of Name Alert: The accurate identification of patients and matching their identity with the correct treatment helps promote patient safety.

However, identification mistakes often arise, causing the erroneous administration of medicines. Most of these failures involved patients with similar-sounding names; using name alerts in the patient’s administration records can prevent these lapses.

How Do You Respond to a Medication Error?

Taking ownership of the mistake and doing the right thing by putting the patient first is one of the best courses of action. Take immediate corrective measures. Inform the patient's doctor of what happened so action can be taken to counteract the effect of the medical error.

What Is the Major Consequence of a Medication Error?

Each year, about 7000 people die due to inaccurate administration of medicines. Other victims suffer from physical pain leading to a high risk of health complications.

What to Do If Medication Errors Happen?

Nurses and other hospital staff should immediately report the incident to the doctor and the nursing supervisor. Patients who suspect that their healthcare providers commit medication errors should immediately notify the doctor or nurse.

How to Reduce the Side Effects of New Medication?

Even correctly prescribed medications can have health consequences or side effects. Some side effects can be felt within a few minutes after administration, while other symptoms may occur after a few weeks.

It is essential to know what to expect when taking medicines. It helps to ask the physician about possible side effects to know how to prevent them.

Contact Us Today (Hire a Pharmacy Error Attorney to Pursue a Medical Error Lawsuit)

Did a medical error hurt you or a family member? The medical malpractice attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC represent people who suffered from medical inaccuracies. Our law firm provides advice on the best legal action that fits a client’s specific situation.

Receive a free no-obligation consultation through our contact form or call us at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call). All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.


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