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Medication Errors Rarely Disclosed to Patients and Family Members

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

When patients in New York City are being cared for in the hospital, they assume they are receiving proper care and treatment. After all, patients rely on medical professionals to help them in their times of need. However, medical errors happen frequently, and those errors can harm patients. In some instances, medical errors can be deadly.

According to a recent study, of the 840,000 voluntarily reported medication errors that were analyzed from 1999 to 2005, close to 7 percent occurred in intensive care units. Most of the medication errors that were studied did not cause harm to patients. However, about 4 percent of the medications errors made in hospital ICUs did lead to harm. In total, 110 patients died as a result of a medication error in all areas of the hospitals.

Shockingly, when errors do occur, most patients and their family members are not told. That is true even if an error caused harm to a patient. Researchers found that patients and family members are only told of medication errors less than 2 percent of the time.

It appears the most common kind of mediation error is an error of omission in which a patient isn’t given the proper medication.

Receiving a certain kind of medication can be the difference between life and death for some patients. When a patient is harmed because of a negligent medical professional, they may choose to pursue legal action. In doing so, they may receive much-needed compensation. In addition, legal action may indicate to others that medical negligence will not be tolerated.

Source: Reuters, “Patients rarely told about medication errors: study,” Jan. 14, 2013

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