Medication is core to the treatment of physical and psychological injury and disease across our health system, and as such, prescription medicines are taken by approximately 40 – 50% of the Irish population.
To meet this need, there are thousands of variants of medication, each with their own benefits and potential side effects.
Specialist medical publications, such as the Monthly Index of Medical Specialities (MIMS) Ireland are used by GPs and other physicians as a guide to ensure the correct medications and dosages are prescribed to patients.
Medical practitioners have a duty of care to ensure the correct medicine is given, in the correct dosage, to the correct individual. Any errors at any point in the process, between determining and diagnosis, prescribing, and dispensing can have considerable health implications.
What is a medication error?
Medication errors can occur in a number of ways:
Failure to explain side effects
Your doctor should explain the side effects of the medication they are prescribing. Failure to do so may put you at risk of health complications. For example, some drugs may make you tired, hence you should not drive or operate machinery, whereas others cannot be taken with alcohol or narcotics.
Prescribing physicians must follow the dosage guidelines provided by the drug manufacturer, including details on when and how to take the medication. If a doctor misreads the dosage or uses the incorrect unit of measurement (e.g. mcg or mg), then this can have serious consequences. An error may occur similarly when writing the prescription, or when it is read by the dispensary. Errors related to handwriting are less common due to the rise in electronic prescribing.
Dispensing the wrong medication
Errors may occur at the point the pharmacy dispensary prepares your medication. They may issue the wrong drug, provide incorrect dosage information, or give the wrong medication to the wrong patient.
Incorrect prescription duration
Drugs taken for too long can have serious health consequences. Similarly, if a dosage is too small, the condition the medication was intended to treat may not be fully remedied.
Any prescribing physician should do all they realistically can to ensure an allergic reaction does not occur. Any existing allergy should be captured on your medical notes, and therefore should be referenced by your doctor. In doing so, they can prescribe an alternative medication. A common example is that of penicillin – many patients are allergic to this anti-biotic; therefore, alternatives must be offered.
If you are taking more than one drug, even if one is non-prescription, your doctor must check whether it is safe for you to do so. Some medications when mixed with others can have serious health consequences – either by combining to have an additional negative effect (e.g. suppressing the immune system) or by rendering the drugs ineffective.
Can I bring a claim for a medication error injury?
To bring a claim for a medication error, it will be necessary to provide evidence that:
- Your medication was prescribed and/or dispensed in a manner below the satisfactory standard, and;
- This negligence caused you damage or injury.
To prove your case, we will compile evidence, including medical records, and seek expert medical opinion.
What may a medication error injury claim cover?
Claims following a medication error which leads to injury or disease may cover two areas of loss:
- Pain and suffering due to the injury; and
- Specific costs resulting from the injury caused. This may cover costs already incurred, such as transport, accommodation, and medical treatment, and expected future expenses, such as physical therapy and care costs. The costs you receive will be based on the precise injuries suffered and the circumstances of the case.
How Lavelle Partners can assist you to bring a claim
- Lavelle Partners have successfully managed many cases of medication error related injury.
- Our personal injury team, headed by partner, Avril Scally, who herself has over 15 years’ experience in medical negligence claims, place client care at the centre of everything they do.
- From the first moment you speak to one of our solicitors, we will listen to your case carefully and with empathy and will only recommend advancing your case if we believe you have a valid case.
- We have both the legal expertise and understanding of the real-life challenges faced by individuals and their families following such events.
- Our solicitors will manage the process entirely on your behalf; compiling the information necessary for your case, including medical notes and managing the submission of your medical negligence claim.
- We will answer any subsequent questions and/or provide further information if required.
By allowing us to handle your claim on your behalf, you can focus on what is most important – your recovery and care, or that of your family member or loved one.
For further information on making a claim following an injury due to a medication error in Ireland, please contact Lavelle Partners in confidence on (01) 644 5800 or email Avril Scally at [email protected]
*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement. This statement is made in compliance with RE.8 of SI 518 of 2002.