When you visit a hospital, you expect to be treated, then leave on your way to recovery. But two recent stories out of Massachusetts and Rhode Island should raise concern among patients. As medical malpractice lawyers, we hear about these stories too often, but the general public is not always informed.
When you book your next medical appointment or surgery, we urge to remember that any type of medical treatment is serious. Please take time to ask questions, even if you have to make an extra appointment with your doctor.
When you are admitted to the hospital for a day or overnight procedure, it is good practice to bring a relative or friend, someone who is familiar with your procedure and can ask nurses and doctors if something looks off-track. Have them carry a list of the medications you take daily in a notebook and show it to nurses.
Have this person stay with you. If you are parent, stay with your child. You may have visited a hospital in the past for treatment and had a good experience, but medical mistakes and medication errors can still happen, especially in the summer. Each July, a new round of medical students head to hospitals to become interns. Meanwhile, like many of us, doctors and surgeons often take vacations. Make sure you understand who will be treating you before you arrive at the hospital. If your health allows, consider delaying your procedure a couple of months.
Rhode Island Hospital Medical Errors
On June 8, the state Department of Health announced it had entered into a consent agreement with Rhode Island Hospital, requiring the medical system to invest $1 million into patient safety initiatives following medical errors made in February and March. The hospital made errors in treating four patients.
In February, two patients underwent surgical procedures intended for someone else. In one case, a patient was mistakenly treated with a computed tomography angiography of the brain and neck. Meanwhile, another patient underwent an angiogram meant for someone else.
March brought more patient mix-ups and medical errors. On March 12, a patient underwent a spinal procedure on the wrong part of the spine. A few days later, the wrong patient received a mammogram.
Rhode Island Hospital has agreed to implement the recommendations of the Joint Commission, the national hospital accrediting body, and put new procedures in place. It also agreed to conduct faculty-wide training on patient identification and implementing procedures. An external compliance organization will provide monitoring and oversight for at least one year.
Boston Children’s Hospital Medication Errors
In Massachusetts, Boston Children’s Hospital has come under scrutiny for medication errors. A state and federal inspection report released this spring found three patients received the wrong medication last year and one died as a result.
The medication errors involved the antibiotic Zosyn and anesthetic Propofol. A nurse administered the Zosyn to a patient more than 12 hours too late. The patient developed an infection and died two days later. The two other patients were given overdoses of the Propofol. After the first overdose, hospital leaders proposed establishing new procedures for measuring doses, but no action was taken. Ten months later, another patient suffered an overdose.
In 2016, there were 47 medication errors that killed or seriously harmed patients at Massachusetts hospitals (Source: Boston Globe).
If You Have Been Injured by a Medication Error or Other Medical Mistake
Medical mistakes and medication errors are preventable. Doctors and hospitals have a responsibility to have procedures in place to prevent mistakes which could harm patients or cost them their lives.
Medication errors are common, even more so than shown by state data which only tracks the most serious errors. When someone dies unexpectedly in a hospital, it is critical to contact an experienced Boston medication malpractice lawyer who can investigate what happened and look at every step of treatment and the full medical records.
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our lawyers specialize in handling medical malpractice claims on behalf of victims and their families. Our lawyers have been consistently recognized by Super Lawyers and U.S. News-Best Lawyers for our work in the area of medical malpractice.
For a free legal consultation, contact us today at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
If you are about to have a procedure, take advantage of the Internet. Patients now have a wealth of information available to them online. To learn more about patient safety, read this blog.
A recent Supreme Court ruling is limiting court actions by injured patients who have filed claims against manufacturers of generic drugs.
The ruling was issued last year and said generic drugmakers do not have control over their labels and therefore cannot be sued for failing to alert the public. Under the 1984 Hatch-Waxman Act, generic drugmakers were not required to undergo the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) lengthy approval process if they could prove the generic drug was equivalent to the brand-name medicine.
In most cases, the Henry-Waxman Act requires generic manufacturers use the same labels as brand-name drugs, with dosing instructions and risks for injury. For this reason, judges have started to dismiss many product liability lawsuits against generic manufacturers while allowing those against brand-name drugs to move ahead.
In a March 20, 2012 article, The New York Times reported that a woman who had received the brand name for an anti-nausea medication had suffered gangrene – or a condition that results in dead or weakening body tissue. She sued the manufacturer Wyeth and won $6.8 million.
Another woman took the generic version of the defective drug, known as promethazine, and had to have her arm and forearm amputated because of complications from gangrene. Her case was dismissed last fall following the Supreme Court ruling.
The Supreme Court ruling comes as Americans are increasingly turning to generic medicines. As prices skyrocket and the economy struggles, many health insurance companies are requiring generics be filled before brand-name drugs. Doctors are required to show medical needs for the brand name over generic.
As a result, nearly 80 percent of prescriptions in the United States are filled generic and most states permit pharmacists to dispense a generic in place of a brand name.
What Can Consumers Do:
Support efforts to change the law. Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, has petitioned the FDA to give generic companies greater control over their labels. The move may allow generic drug users to sue. U.S. Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-California, is also exploring ways to address the issue.
Talk to your doctor. Ask your doctor about the medicine being prescribed, the generic and potential side effects. If you are still concerned about potential injuries, ask your doctor to call your insurance company and request a brand-name.
Research any medication you use. Write down the name of the medicine you are prescribed, the medicine you receive at the pharmacy and research both drugs. Discuss any side effects with your physician.
Consider foregoing insurance. If you are really concerned and can afford the brand-name prescription, consider purchasing it. There are many discount drug programs which may help you reduce your costs. Check with any groups you are affiliated with, including AAA and AARP.
Contact your health insurance company. If the company has required you to use generic medications, ask if it has changed its policy and is now allowing use of brand-name medications.
Massachusetts Patients’ Bill of Rights and Preventing Medical Errors.