Medical Malpractice – Administering or prescribing the wrong medication or the wrong dose

In the State of Florida, medical malpractice is considered a tort, for which victims may file a civil action. Florida Statute 766.102 sets the standard for recovery of damages for malpractice. Recovery is possible when the actions of the care provider fall short of the prevailing professional standard of care for someone with a similar background as the care provider. Administering or prescribing the wrong dose of medication is one example of a behavior which could fall short of the prevailing professional standard of care.

Research from the British Pharmacological Society details the prevalence of prescription errors. Prescription errors account for approximately 70 percent of the medication errors causing an adverse impact on patients. In a teaching hospital, prescription errors were identified in four out of 1,000 prescriptions. Errors are also common in ambulatory settings.

Prescription errors can occur not only when the wrong dosage of a medication is prescribed, but also if a provider fails to check for adverse drug interactions or prescribes the wrong medication. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices provides a list of commonly confused drug names.  Pharmacists could also make errors in filling prescriptions, especially when two drugs have similar names.

Wrong dose errors also occur when a patient is administered an incorrect dosage of a medication which was properly prescribed, such as when a nurse administers 100mg of a drug instead of 10mg. Medscape warns that both wrong dose and wrong drug errors are common when automatic dispensing is utilized. Automatic dispensing is common in hospital environments.

A doctor or other care provider could be held legally responsible for a prescribing or administering the wrong dose or the wrong drug. Malpractice victims must both prove negligence and must demonstrate that the failures in drug prescribing or administration was the direct cause of an adverse outcome.