Medication is a powerful tool in modern healthcare, but even minor errors in prescribing or administering drugs can have devastating consequences. Due to the frequency with which medications are prescribed and dispensed, an error may be made. When these errors cause harm to patients, it can be a deeply concerning and stressful experience. In Alberta, patients who suffer harm due to medication errors may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim.

This blog will explore the complexities of medical malpractice claims related to medication and prescription errors in Alberta. It will identify common types of errors and their potential consequences, outline the standard of care in these types of claims, and navigate the elements of a malpractice claim arising from medication or prescription errors.

When Can Medication Errors Occur?

While it is important to remember that doctors and pharmacists are human and may make mistakes, errors relating to medications, dosages, and prescriptions can have catastrophic and sometimes fatal consequences. Given the high rates at which these medical professionals prescribe and dispense medication, there are various opportunities for errors to arise.

Doctors Prescribing Medication

Doctors play a crucial role in treating patients using the correct medications. They must obtain all relevant information from a patient before prescribing any medication and be very careful when prescribing drugs. However, mistakes or negligence can happen despite a doctor or pharmacist’s best efforts.

Errors can happen when a doctor selects the wrong medication, prescribes the wrong dosage, fails to consider a patient’s allergies, fails to consider potential drug interactions with medications the patient is already taking or does not consider the patient’s medical history or current health condition.

Pharmacists Dispensing Medication

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians act as gatekeepers for the medications that are prescribed to patients. Unfortunately, prescription mistakes can happen, and certain things may be missed, leading to serious consequences.

Mistakes can occur at the pharmacy if a pharmacist provides an individual with the wrong medication, dispenses the wrong dosage, fails to label the medication properly or fails to warn a patient of possible side effects associated with the medication.

Any of these errors can have a wide range of consequences, from mild side effects to serious injury, permanent disability, or even death.

Understanding the Standard of Care in Alberta

To establish medical malpractice in Alberta, a patient must prove that a healthcare professional breached the standard of care. This standard is based on the level of care that a reasonably prudent healthcare professional would provide to a patient in similar circumstances. Some factors that may be considered when evaluating the standard of care in medication management include:

  • The patient’s medical history, including pre-existing conditions, allergies, and medications currently being taken;
  • The nature of the illness or condition being treated to assess the appropriate medication and dosage for the specific diagnosis; 
  • Medical knowledge available to the medical professional to mitigate the chances of an error, such as established guidelines and best practices for medication use and 
  • Communication between the healthcare professional and the patient to communicate the use and administration of a medication and to clarify a patient’s questions or concerns about a medication.

Establishing a Medical Malpractice Claim for Medication or Prescription Errors

Prescription and medication errors can lead to serious injuries and, in some cases, be fatal. In such instances, the injured patient (or their family member in the event of a death) may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim against the negligent party.

To prove that you or a loved one was the victim of medication or prescription negligence, you must prove:

  • A Duty of Care Existed: You received care from a health practitioner (doctor or pharmacist) who owed you a duty to provide a reasonable standard of care;
  • The Duty of Care was Breached: The medical professional did not meet the standard of care that is expected of them when prescribing or dispensing medication; 
  • Causation: The error made in relation to the medication or prescription caused you to sustain harm or injury; and
  • Damages: Due to the prescription or medication error, you suffer quantifiable damages, such as lost wages, pain and suffering, or extensive medical expenses.  

Moving Forward After a Medication or Prescription Error

If you have been harmed due to a medication or prescription error, you may be entitled to seek compensation for your injuries. However, given the complexity of medical malpractice cases, it is imperative to seek advice from an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who can assess your circumstances to help you determine whether you may have a viable claim. 

If you proceed with a medication or prescription malpractice claim, your lawyer will help you gather evidence, including medical records, and identify the responsible party. They will also help you identify your options, such as pursuing negotiation or resolving the matter in court, to ensure you recover fair compensation for your injuries.

Contact the Calgary Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP for Assistance With Your Case

The experienced injury and malpractice lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP understand that human error or negligence can have serious implications when it comes to your medications and prescriptions. If you or a loved one have experienced a mistake regarding your prescription or medication and it has caused serious illness or permanent problems, contact us by phone at 403-571-0555 or reach out to us online to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team. We will assess your circumstances and help you determine whether you have a claim.