Hospital Medication Errors

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Hospital Medication Errors

When you are in hospital, the last thing that you worry about is whether you are being given the right medication.

Unfortunately, medication mix-ups do occur and it could be that you are given the wrong type of medication (whether through being prescribed the wrong medication or being dispensed a different medication to your prescription), the wrong dosage of medication or maybe even the wrong combination of medication.

All hospitals have protocols in place to prevent this from happening but dispensing errors still occur.

You may not realise that a mistake has been made or it may not become apparent for some time. If you do suffer an injury or illness as a result of taking the wrong medication and feel that you have suffered hospital negligence, then you may have a claim for compensation. Our specialist medical solicitors are able to offer free and confidential advice on a potential claim.

For free advice from our Medical Negligence solicitors, please call us direct on 01244 354688

Hospital Medication Error Case Studies

Steroid medication error
  • We have recently successfully recovered compensation in the sum of £50,000 for a client on behalf of his deceased wife after a hospital failed to adequately provide steroid cover which led to an addisonian crisis, multi-organ failure, and eventually her very sad death.
  • If steroids are used on a daily basis over a long period of time, our bodies become reliant upon them and our natural production of cortisol by the adrenal gland is significantly reduced. If our bodies do not produce glucocorticoid hormones such as cortisol, it reduces the body’s ability to develop an effective immune system. This can lead to the body going into a state of shock, seizures or multiple organ failures can occur and in some cases it can even lead to death. This is known as an addisonian or adrenal crisis. It is a chronic life-threatening condition that requires emergency treatment with steroids. If the treatment is not provided in a timely manner, the consequences can be catastrophic and even fatal.
  • Since 2010 our client’s wife had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and was treated with daily steroids for this. In 2012 she woke suddenly with very severe worsening pains in the back of her hands and so she was taken by ambulance to the hospital. The hospital was made aware of her daily medications and in particular her use of steroids for arthritis, which was vital for her to be continued on.
  • Following further investigations, it was suspected that she was suffering from septic arthritis. She was admitted to the orthopedic ward for further investigations and treatment. An x-ray revealed that the wrist was very swollen and confirmed to be septic.
  • Our client’s wife wasn’t given her regular dose of steroids until two days after her first admission. The following day she suffered from three hyperglycaemic attacks and blood tests revealed abnormal kidney function. Our client’s wife appeared to be deteriorating but the hospital seemed unconcerned.
  • Five days after her admission she collapsed and was found to have suffered an acute kidney injury. Her steroid dose was assessed to be too low and was thereafter doubled, with intravenous hydrocortisone given.
  • The condition of our client’s wife worsened and following a second opinion from a doctor in the high dependency unit she was diagnosed with hospital-acquired pneumonia. She was thereafter transferred through to the high dependency unit where it was established that her body was in an addisonian crisis due to the lack of steroids. Unfortunately, our client’s wife went into multi-organ failure and sadly passed away.
  • Following considerable initial investigations and analysis of the medical records, we proceeded to bring the action against the hospital. It was alleged that the hospital failed to provide adequate steroid cover and recognise signs of deterioration which led to an avoidable addisonian crisis, multi-organ failure, and our client’s sad death.
  • Although some partial admissions were made by the defendant’s solicitor, liability in relation to her avoidable death was strongly denied. We remained firm in our views that our client’s very sad death was avoidable and proceeded to obtain supportive expert evidence from both an orthopaedic surgeon and a consultant physician.
  • Despite this, the defendant’s solicitor continued to dispute whether our client’s wife’s death was avoidable but we remained strong in our views which were supported with expert evidence and proceeded to issue Court proceedings against the hospital.
  • We entered into significant negotiations in an attempt to agree on a settlement prior to attending what would have been a very emotional hearing in court for our client. The defendant put forward an unsatisfactory offer but we stood firm in our position and proceeded to strongly negotiate a settlement.
  • Our client was pleased to accept £50,000 in full and final settlement of the claim on behalf of his late wife. This settlement figure included a claim for general damages, loss of earnings, bereavement damages, funeral expenses and dependency claim.
  • Kerry Goulden, who had the conduct of the case, was pleased to achieve a good outcome for the family, who were understandably extremely upset about the care received from the hospital. The case highlights how a simple mistake of not giving enough steroids can have life-changing and devastating effects.
Hormone Replacement Treatment error
  • This was a medical negligence case on behalf of a 49-year-old female client.  Our client had been suffering from abscesses on her liver for approximately 2 years. She had undergone 3 drainage procedures but unfortunately, these had not been successful in the long term as the abscesses kept returning.
  • By July 2010, our client was again feeling unwell and was admitted to the hospital. She provided the hospital with her Hormone Replacement Treatment medication, Climagest, which she had been prescribed by her General Practitioner.
  • Our Client had been taking this medication for approximately 12 months without any problems.  Climagest has varying levels of hormones during the month and it is, therefore, important that the tablets are taken in the correct order. The monthly strips of the medication are clearly labelled with the relevant days for this purpose.
  • Within a couple of days in hospital, our client began her period, which was approximately 2 weeks before she was due. She bled for just over a week, which frightened her as she had never suffered from breakthrough bleeding before.
  • Our client became very emotional and was crying a lot more than usual. She suffered from abdominal cramps, which felt like menstrual cramps. The doctors at the hospital told our client that they did not know if her symptoms were being caused by the abscess or her menstrual cycle and they were unable to explain why she was bleeding so early. This worried our client even more.
  • When our client was discharged from the hospital, it was found that the Climagest tablets had been administered to her in the wrong order, which affected her physical health and emotional well-being.
  • Once at home, our client took her tablets in the correct order again and fortunately, her menstrual cycle returned to normal within approximately 3 months and she has had no lasting symptoms.
  • The hospital admitted liability for administering the medication incorrectly and we have recovered the sum of £2,500 by way of compensation for our client.
Oral medication error
  • Our client suffered from Gangrene in her foot and when the pain become unbearable, she was admitted to hospital to see if the pain could be eased, otherwise, our client would have required amputation of her foot.
  • Our client was kept in hospital for three weeks and during this time, her feet were soaked in a solution every day. This solution was made from a red tablet which turned the liquid purple and contained potassium permanganate. It is intended for external use only.
  • As our client suffers from a number of ailments, she was given her medication daily (which remained the same throughout her stay in hospital). On the morning in question, when the medication was brought to our client, our client questioned a red pill that was given to her, which she does not normally take. The nurse went to check with the Ward Sister and confirmed that our client was to take this tablet orally.  Our client did so and felt immediate pain and burning sensation. The tablet was the potassium permanganate which is not meant for oral ingestion and so our client sustained burns to her mouth and oesophagus.
  • Our client was successful in her claim for compensation and received £2,000.

Do you have a potential medical negligence claim?

Please contact us for advice if you feel you have suffered any form of negligent medical/dental treatment. We have a specialist team of medical negligence solicitors who are always happy to help.

If you would like advice on whether you have a potential clinical negligence claim or assistance with drafting a letter of complaint, please contact us on the number below. Please note that there are legal time limits in place for starting a claim for compensation, and our specialist clinical negligence solicitors will be able to advise you specifically on the facts of your own case.

For free advice from our Medical Negligence solicitors, please call us direct on 01244 354688

Linda Schermer-Jones

Head of the Clinical Negligence Department, Associate Director & Medical Negligence Solicitor

Kerry Goulden

Associate Director & Medical Negligence Solicitor

Liz Fry

Associate Director & Medical Negligence Solicitor

Emma Woodrow

Clinical Negligence Legal Adviser