When you receive medical care, if your provider makes an error of any kind, it may fall into the category of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is professional negligence.
So what about if a doctor or health care provider prescribes you the wrong medication? Below we talk about some things you should know if you find yourself in this situation, particularly in legal terms.
How Do Doctors Prescribe Medicines?
When a doctor prescribes a medicine, as with anything else they’re doing, it’s not an exact science. There are a lot of variables that go into prescribing medication and treating a patient, and there is going to be trial and error.
Every patient is going to respond differently to medicines, and there is never a uniform approach to health care. Just because there’s an issue with a medicine, it causes side effects, or it doesn’t work for you doesn’t inherently mean the law is going to punish your doctor.
There is a difference between the standard practice of medicine and negligence in medical care.
The big issue that will come into play and differentiate between practicing medicine and malpractice is based on negligence. In a medical malpractice lawsuit, you have to show a doctor was negligent in prescribing you medication.
To show negligence, you have to establish three things.
The first is what the medical standard of care would typically be under the circumstances. The second is how your doctor deviated from the standard, and the third is how you were harmed due to the deviation.
The medical standard of care is usually established by another professional who works in the same area of specialty as your doctor in most cases.
Medical standard of care is the type and also the level of care another profession in the same or similar circumstances with the same training and experience would provide.
Then, also based on expert witness testimony, you’d have to outline how your doctor failed to meet the standard of care in your situation.
You’d have to be able to show whatever medication they prescribed did cause harm or injury too. For example, maybe it made a current health problem worse.
Examples where medical malpractice might be relevant in prescribing include:
- You were prescribed the wrong dosage
- Your doctor gave you the wrong instructions to take the medicine
- You’re prescribed something with an ingredient you’re allergic to
- There’s a potentially dangerous interaction between the medication and something else you take
- Other underlying medical conditions you have make the medicine harmful
- Your symptoms aren’t made better by the medicine, and the condition it’s being used to treat worsen
- The doctor doesn’t go over the warning of risks and side effects with you that come from the manufacturer so you can make an informed decision
It’s not only in the prescribing of medicine where there could be a mistake amounting to negligence.
The drug manufacturer could produce a tainted batch, or a nurse could give the wrong dosage. Mistakes like these are relatively common in the emergency department and hospital settings. The pharmacist could fill a prescription incorrectly too.
Other types of prescription drug errors, along with prescribing one that’s not right for a patient, include:
- Giving the wrong medicine to the wrong patient
- Mislabeling a medication
- Giving the incorrect dosage even if the right one is technically prescribed
Other Things to Know About Medical Malpractice
If you think that your doctor has prescribed you the wrong medicine or there’s been a medication mistake of any type made, it’s best to talk with a personal injury attorney. These cases can be complex.
You’ll need to show that you have a provider-patient relationship with the doctor if you’re going to sue them. For example, you can’t sue a friend who’s a doctor who gave you medical advice in an informal setting.
The doctor must, to reiterate, do something that a competent doctor wouldn’t have given the same circumstances.
The injury you sustained because of the medicine mix-up has to have led to specific damages. These damages can include mental and physical pain, medical bills, and lost work or earning capacity.
In most states, you have to bring a malpractice claim pretty quickly. You usually have between six months and two years, and if you don’t file within this time, the court will dismiss the case.
In some states, the patient may be required to give the doctor notice of the claim before filing anything, and expert opinions are required.