Medical malpractice is a broad term encompassing a wide variety of errors, omissions, and instances of negligence committed by healthcare professionals. One of the more common forms of malpractice, though, is medication error, which can manifest in a variety of forms. The failure to diagnose potential detrimental side effects of a drug could result in a medical malpractice suit, for instance, as could a pharmacist’s clerical error. Likewise, both overdoses and opiate dependencies may incite medical malpractice claims.
The accused in medication error lawsuits may vary according to the specifics of the case, as well. On the one hand, a doctor who over-prescribes a potent drug could be held responsible for their patient’s injuries. For instance, a recently resolved case in California saw 46-year-old Dr. Hsiu-Ying “Lisa” Teng sentenced to 30 years in prison for the deaths of three patients who overdosed on medication she prescribed.
Although the case won’t have relevance in Canada, it sets an interesting precedent that some commentators believe could be detrimental to patient health.
“Experts fear that Tseng’s conviction will usher in a precarious new reality – a scenario in which doctors fearful of prosecution are hesitant to prescribe portent painkillers to patients who need them,” reads an LA Times article.
In other cases, drug manufacturers can shoulder the blame. According to FindLaw.com, pharmaceutical companies may be found liable if “they fail to properly test a new drug, design or manufacture a dangerous drug, engage in deceptive marketing, or fail to provide adequate warnings on their drugs.”
Regardless of where blame is placed, opiate overdoses are on the rise in Canada, in part thanks to an increase in prescription drug use, according to a 2014 report from the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC).
“It’s a national issue, it’s a growing problem,” executive director of the CDPC Donald MacPherson told the CBC. “Canada is the No. 2 user of opiates in the world next to the U.S., so there’s a lot of prescription opioids out there in the market.”
At the time of a June 2014 CBC article, opioid overdoses were the third leading cause of accidental death in Ontario, and in 2012 more than 200 people died of overdoses in Toronto alone. The report, which suggests that over-prescribing pain medication contributed greatly to the fatalities, “calls for more education of patients taking opiates, appropriate prescribing guidelines for physicians and widespread training and use of naloxone, a drug designed to immediately reverse the effects of an opiate overdose,” again according to the CBC.
Thankfully, some healthcare institutions are taking steps to diminish instances of medication error in Canadian hospitals. Mount Sinai’s family health team, for instance, was recently recognized by the Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario with a Bright Lights Award for its Brown-Bag Medication Check-Up Program. The program, which is aimed at older patients with conditions like diabetes, angina, and hypertension, allows participants to visit pharmacist Suzanne Singh with all their medication, which Singh goes through and brings problems or potential errors to her patients’ attention. She might identify, for instance, medications with adverse side-effects; medications which interact badly when taken together; or instances of potential incorrect dosages.
“Patients seem to appreciate the opportunity to have a personalized medication review where no medication-related question is off-limits,” Singh said in a Mount Sinai release.
If you or a member of your family has suffered an injury from a medication error at an Ontario healthcare location, you should immediately contact the Medical Malpractice Group at Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers. They can help you better understand the implications of your injury and determine whether a medical malpractice claim is a viable option.