Our elderly loved ones, who are members of one of the most vulnerable populations in the nation, need to be treated with a high level of caution and care during medical situations. Unfortunately, worldwide trends have shown that the carelessness of prescribing doctors often leads to life-threatening or fatal consequences.
While medication errors can be fatal for anyone, a new study has confirmed that death results most frequently from medication errors that happen in patient who are 75 years of age or older. The most commonly listed error is omitting a vital medicine or ingredient, followed closely by giving a patient an incorrect dosage of medication.
The most frequently listed drug groups that result in fatal medication errors include cardiovascular drugs, central nervous system drugs, and antibiotics. Among cardiovascular medications, anticoagulants were especially prominent because of the particularly fine line between an effective and toxic dose for this type of drug.
Omission of vital drugs can have catastrophic or life-threatening consequences on a patient’s health. Researchers speculate that some contributing causes of medication omissions include delays in administration due to staff shortages, medication unavailability, and patients being unable to take medication on their own. Potential interventions include taking steps to increase drug availability, implementing better work and communication flow, and creating new technologies that decrease human error.
Medication errors happen far too often than many would like to believe. In one recently emerged case, 83-year-old Missouri resident Nelson Tyler died after being given 125 micrograms of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is up to 100 time more potent than morphine. The fatal dose caused him to go into cardiac arrest, ultimately leading to his death three days later.
Another noteworthy case occurred at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center of Tennessee when a nurse accidentally administered a drug used during death-row executions into a 75-year-old patient instead of a requested anti-anxiety medication. The patient went into cardiac arrest after it was administered, suffered from partial brain death, then died shortly later.
Unfortunately, medication administration errors remain common both within nation and worldwide. If you or a loved one has experienced the detrimental impacts caused by a medical provider’s medical error, consider reaching out to an experienced attorney to discuss your legal options.
Both an Emory School of Law graduate and MBA graduate of Goizueta Business School at Emory, Chris Nace focuses his practice on areas of medical malpractice, drug and product liability, motor vehicle accidents, wrongful death, employment discrimination and other negligence and personal injury matters.