As there continue to be medical advances across all the fields of practice, more people find themselves relying on medication for short- and long-term treatment of different medical conditions. These drugs often increase quality of life and can have an amazing impact on a person’s happiness and wellbeing, but when the wrong drug is administered or a person is given the wrong dose, then the results can be tragic. In many malpractice cases, it is the pharmacist who has breached his or her duty and made a mistake that led to serious harm, or even death.
What Happens When a Pharmacist is Negligent?
A pharmacist is charged with a legal duty to act in a manner consistent with what a reasonable person with the same education, training, and skills would have done under the same circumstances. This is known as the medical standard of care applicable to pharmacists. If the pharmacist has breached this duty by making a preventable mistake that resulted in injury to a patient, then he or she may be held legally responsible for the resulting harm.
In addition to filling a prescription that has been submitted by a doctor or other medical professional, a pharmacist must take reasonable steps to ensure that the patient’s records do not indicate that there is a problem with the medication that is being dispensed. This does not mean that the pharmacist must conduct an independent investigation into what other drugs the patient may be taking, but must consider the record to which he or she has access. In many cases, there are negative interactions between different types of drugs. If the pharmacist has a record that indicates the patient is already taking a drug that has a serious negative impact on a person’s health when taken in conjunction with another drug, but does not react to that when filling a prescription for that second drug, then he may be liable, at least in part, for any resulting harm.
Some of the responsibilities for which a pharmacist may be accountable include the following:
- Reviewing the medication that is about to be dispensed and informing the patient about any possible side-effects. This does not mean that a pharmacist must disclose all potential negative reactions, only those that a reasonably prudent pharmacist would do, which likely means the most common side-effects;
- Analyzing the medication that is being dispensed in light of the known medical history of the patient – if the person is on medication for a heart condition and the drug being prescribed can place significant strain on a person’s heart, then there should be a conversation with the patient and possibly the prescribing medical professional in order to avoid a dangerous situation;
- Reviewing other medications that the patient is taking, which may have been prescribed by multiple healthcare providers who are not aware of the other drugs, in order to avoid a dangerous drug interaction; and
- Maintaining accurate and up-to-date records in order to provide the best possible care to patients.
Of course, in addition to the obligations to provide care and advice to patients about medications that they may be taking or are newly prescribed, a pharmacist also must ensure that he acts with due diligence in filling a prescription. There are many mistakes that may be made, including filling a prescription for a child with the adult dosage of a particular medication or filling a prescription with the wrong medication entirely. If there is any deviation from the prescription of a doctor or other medical professional and the patient suffers harm, then it is likely that the pharmacist will be found liable for the negligence.
In addition, a pharmacist may be held accountable if he failed to notice a problem with a drug. There are a number of visual cues that would alert a reasonably prudent pharmacist that there is a problem with a particular medication. If a pharmacist fails to respond to an obvious problem, then he or she may be legally responsible for any resulting harm, even if the issue with the drug was the result of a manufacturing or compounding problem. In a case such as this, there likely would be multiple defendants brought into the civil case for medical malpractice.
Stern Law, PLLC Advocates for Those Injured by Preventable Medical Mistakes
People rely on many different types of medications to lead fulfilling lives. When there is a problem with the dispensation of one or more of these medications that could have been prevented with reasonable diligence, it is important to pursue available legal remedies in order to hold the responsible parties accountable for the resulting harm. The knowledgeable and skilled attorney at Stern Law, PLLC have more than 30 years of experience in achieving the right outcome for victims of medical malpractice. Stern Law, PLLC also strives to provide resources to those who may be struggling because of malpractice, so we have compassionate and informed staff members available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, to answer questions, even if you are not a client. Call us at 1-844-808-7529 or fill out an online contact form in order to learn how we can help you get through this difficult time.