Prescribing and administering restricted medication is a delicate act. While appropriate medications can greatly improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, powerful drugs can also cause serious harm. When a healthcare professional administers too much or too little medication, or hands out the wrong variety of meds, the effects can be devastating. Over the past several months, CBC’s Go Public has investigated serious medication errors across the country. What effect can medication errors have? How can Canada prevent these mistakes? And how can a medication error lawyer help victims and their families recover from their losses?
Examples of medication errors
Adam Jackson-Buller, Saskatchewan
In October, Go Public reported on Adam Jackson-Buller, a four-year-old from Saskatoon, who was given an incorrect dosage of Risperidone by a local pharmacy. Adam’s doctor prescribed a 0.3 ml liquid dose of the drug to help treat the boy’s ADHD, but the pharmacy administered a 3 ml dose.
“The first time we gave Adam the dosage, about 30 minutes after, he was acting like a slobbering drunk,” Adam’s mother, Sherrie Jackson-Buller, told the CBC. “He couldn’t stand up, he was drooling, he couldn’t walk on his own. We had to carry him.”
The overdose went unchecked for four months, during which time Sherrie Jackson-Buller reported her son’s reaction to her family doctor and a sought a second opinion at a clinic.
Eventually, after a second call to the family doctor, the overdose was discovered and corrected. Adam will have to be tested over the next five years to ensure no permanent damage has been done to his kidneys and liver.
Betty Wallwork, Ontario
Senior citizens are particularly susceptible to medication errors. In Canada, people aged 65 or older comprise 13 per cent of the population but consume 40 per cent of the country’s drugs. At times, these drugs can combine to cause substantial harm.
This was the case for Betty Wallwork of Ontario, who was misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s as a result of the cocktail of medications she was taking, including drugs to help heal from cataract surgery, to reduce pain for an earache, to bring down swelling around her ankle, and to treat a chest cold. The mix of medications disrupted her normal cognitive state.
“I was losing my temper, walking around the house in a daze,” Wallwork told the CBC. “I was saying stupid things, I was having arguments with people. I was so sick I didn’t even know I was sick.”
Betty eventually stopped her medication and was required to take a new cognitive test to prove she didn’t have Alzheimer’s. She told the CBC that ‘the medical system needs to do a better job of warning patients and their families about problems that arise from the wrong mix of medication.’
Andrew Sheldrick, Ontario
Both Betty and Adam were able to recover from their encounters with medication error, but as any medication error lawyer can tell you, not all victims are so lucky. Andrew Sheldrick was just eight years old when he died after taking what his family thought was a regular dose of Tryptophan, which had been prescribed to treat a sleep disorder.
More than four months after the boy’s death, a coroner’s report concluded that rather than Tryptophan, Andrew was given a heavy dose of Baclofen, a muscle relaxant. An independent compounding pharmacy had mixed the two drugs up. The family was entirely unaware of the problem, the CBC reports.
Why does this happen?
What all three of these cases have in common is a lack of communication between pharmacists, physicians, and patients. According to Go Public’s investigation, ‘there is no mandatory disclosure of medication errors to a public body and no national tracking system monitoring how often errors happen.’ This makes it extremely difficult for regulatory bodies to take action on medication errors. It emphasizes the importance of a medication error lawyer who can work to hold negligent healthcare providers responsible.
“We should be looking at the numbers, but it is difficult to get because every province has its own health system, every organization does something a little bit differently,” said the Canadian Patient Safety Institute’s Chris Power. “I think there does need to be increased transparency… if we compare that to the aviation industry, when errors are made around the world, errors of significance, it’s known almost immediately and changes are made immediately. In the health care system, we don’t do that … sometimes we don’t even share within provinces when those issues happen, so it’s really difficult for us to put in those processes to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
If you or a member of your family has been injured through a medication error, prescription drugs contact a medication error lawyer at Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today. They can set you up with a free, no-obligation consultation.