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Hospital errors in dispensing medications can be deadly

Advancements in the pharmaceutical industry have saved the lives of countless individuals across the country, including many here in Illinois. When these medications are part of a treatment plan, many people make a full recovery from an acute illness or are able to adequately manage a chronic one. However, when hospital errors occur in prescribing or dispensing medications, the results can be deadly.

Even with a correct diagnosis, treatment errors can put the lives of patients at risk. For instance, a doctor determined that a man had too much potassium in his blood and prescribed Kayexalate. This medication draws the potassium from a patient's blood into the colon, and the potassium is flushed out of the system through the bowels. A rare but potentially deadly side effect of the medication is colonic necrosis (cell death), which a 2009 study said could be an avoidable side effect.

Unfortunately, the Maryland man in question suffered this side effect when he was given the medication and, by the time hospital personnel discovered that he was suffering from colonic necrosis, it was too late. Surgeons were forced to remove his entire colon, and he died the next day. His family contended in a lawsuit that dialysis would have efficiently removed the potassium from his system without this deadly side effect, and a jury agreed. The family was awarded approximately $10 million in damages.

Even if certain side effects are rare, physicians need to consider them when determining whether to prescribe a particular medication to a patient. Furthermore, patients need to be properly monitored in order to ensure that a drug does not unnecessarily harm them. Each year, numerous patients here in Illinois and across the country die from hospital errors in the prescribing, dispensing and monitoring of medications. Families who lose loved ones under these circumstances could exercise their rights to file medical malpractice claims against the party or parties believed responsible for the death of their loved one.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "UMMS must pay family $10 million in malpractice suit", Andrea K. McDaniels, Sept. 22, 2016

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