Many nursing home patients receive medication. Their inability to care for themselves, however, makes them incapable of monitoring their own medicine. Nursing home employees thus carry a heavy obligation, being responsible for accurately administering patient medication. Yet, too often these employees are overworked, tired, inattentive or improperly trained. These characteristics can lead to medication errors that pose a serious risk to unsuspecting patients.

A recent study conducted by a team from Auburn University and the University of North Carolina found that certain types of drugs are erroneously administered more than others. Topping the list of medications most often administered incorrectly was analgesics which include painkillers, NSAIDs, and opioids. These drugs accounted for 12.3% of medication errors followed by sedatives, anti-diabetic agents, anti-coagulants, anticonvulsants, and anti-depressants. The study concluded by suggesting that an investigation should be undertaken to determine why these disproportionate errors occur.

A medication error, whether giving a patient an overdose, too low of a dose, or an entirely wrong medication, can cause serious harm. Victims of these mishaps can be seriously injured, permanently disabled, or killed. Medical care required to heal from this damage can be costly and drive a victim into depression and a feeling of helplessness. Luckily, these victims can be helped.

An individual who has been injured by a medication error can file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the employee and the institution who wronged him. Success in these cases depends upon the specific facts of the case, but a plaintiff must show that a medical professional breached his duty of care to the patient, which resulted in the patient sustaining compensable harm. Winning a medical malpractice case may mean medical bills can be paid off, pain and suffering can be compensated, and, if death resulted, funeral costs can be covered.

Administering medication should be a simple task. When healthcare professionals neglect their duty of care and lose focus in their role as protector of their patients, they can do serious harm to their patients. Such negligent acts should not go unpunished, and a civil lawsuit will help ensure they do not make the same mistake twice.

Source: McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, “Analgesics account for most nursing home medication errors, researchers find,” Tim Mullaney, Jun. 17, 2013