If a medication error leads to death in a nursing home, the resident’s family has a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit and to receive compensation for the medical malpractice that occurred due to the nursing home’s negligence.
Medication Standard of Care
Nursing homes are responsible for meeting their residents’ physical and emotional needs, which includes the distribution of medications to their residents. Doctors prescribe nursing home residents specific medications for their medical conditions, and the residents rely on the nursing home staff to administer their medication correctly.
A medication error is when the nursing home staff administers a resident’s medication in a way that is either different from the doctor’s orders or different from the manufacturer’s instructions.
Medication Administration in Nursing Homes
In many nursing home facilities, medication distribution occurs through nursing home staff members during a “med pass.” This term describes the passing, or dispensing, of medications to residents under a doctor’s orders and following the manufacturer’s requirements for dosage and frequency. Licensed nurses or staff members supervised by licensed nurses handle med passes. Licensed nurses must organize all of the medications in advance, document the administration of the medication, and then finally perform the actual “med pass.” This process can take several hours to complete.
“Med Pass” Medication Errors in Nursing Homes
Many different types of medication errors can occur during the “med pass” process in nursing homes, including the following:
- Cutting or slicing a pill in half incorrectly. Some tablets and capsules clearly indicate that the medication should remain whole.
- Providing inadequate food or antacids along with the medication. Some medications require the resident to eat food along with the pill or capsule, or require an antacid.
- Providing inadequate liquids along with the medication. Some medications are difficult to swallow without liquid or have specific instructions to take with liquid. Without proper hydration, a nursing home resident may react poorly to the medication.
- Failure to shake, mix, or roll the medication correctly before dispensing. Some medications require specific preparation, including mixing, shaking, or rolling. Some examples include insulin or other suspension medications.
- Improper dispensation of eye drops. This type of medicine can be more difficult to administer, as a nursing staff member must ensure that the drops go directly into the eye for a specific period of time.
- Failing to ensure that a patient takes a pill sublingually. Some medications are placed under the tongue instead of swallowing or chewing.
Other Medication Errors in Nursing Homes
Other errors in medication administration that can occur in nursing homes that may injure patients, or lead to death, can include the following:
- Dispensing expired medication.
- Giving too much or too little medication.
- Skipping medications.
- Giving an incorrect medication that has a similar name or similar packaging to the correct medication.
- Giving medication that the patient is allergic to.
- Using an incorrect administration technique for the medication.
- Giving medication at incorrect times or incorrect dates.
- Giving the wrong strength, the wrong forum, or the entirely wrong medication.
- Documenting the dosage of medication incorrectly.
- Failure to monitor the resident after dispensing the medication.
- Failure to follow a doctor’s specific orders regarding the medication.
- Ignoring or changing a medication order.
- Borrowing medication from one resident to give to another.
- Stealing medication for the nursing home staff’s personal use or to sell for profit.
Medication Errors as Nursing Home Abuse
While medication errors can be a form of negligence, there are unfortunate circumstances where medication distributed improperly is a form of abuse. In some situations, the improper use of antipsychotic medications allows nursing home staff to restrain residents through chemical means. Staff may improperly use these strong medications to calm and immobilize some residents who have dementia, which can cause aggressive behaviors, agitation, or wandering.
Wrongful Death as a Result of Medication Errors
If a medication error led to the death of your loved one, you may have the right to receive compensation for medical bills, funeral expenses, lost wages, and the pain and suffering for those who are the survivors.
Always ensure that you request an autopsy for your loved one, even if the local government is unable or unwilling to fund one.
Contact a Nursing Home Lawyer
Wrongful deaths caused by medication errors are preventable. If you think your loved one may have died due to the negligent distribution of medication, or other medication errors, visit with one of our nursing home lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm. Please call us at (800) 842-6336 to help you determine your legal rights. We do not avoid difficult cases, and you pay nothing unless we win.