Pediatric Medication Errors

Medication errors have been identified as a predominant type of medical error, as well as a leading cause of preventable adverse events in children. Unfortunately, pediatric medication errors have the potential to cause greater than harm than those affecting adults. There is a more complex process involved in selecting and prescribing the correct medication in the appropriate manner, amount, and timing for a child. With this in mind, doctors and other medical professionals must take extraordinary care when dealing with medication and children. Failure to do so can spell tragic results. If your child was the victim of medical negligence involving medications, your may have grounds for a pediatric malpractice lawsuit.

How often do Medication Errors Happen to Children?

According to one study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, there was an 11.1 percent rate of adverse drug events in a random sample of 960 pediatric patients across 12 different children’s hospitals in the United States. 22 percent of all adverse drug events were identified as preventable, while 17.8 percent could have been identified earlier, and 16.8 percent could have been mitigated more effectively. The most common medications that caused adverse drug events were opioid analgesics and antibiotics.

Why do Medication Errors Occur in Pediatrics?

There are a vast array of potential causes of medication errors in pediatric patients but many of these errors are simply medical negligence. Some of the reasons why doctors must be especially cautious when prescribing medication to children include:

  • The majority of medications prescribed to children are formulated and packaged primarily for adults. As such, these drugs must be administered to children in distinct volumes or concentrations to be effective and appropriate in treatment.
  • The necessity for alterations and specific calculations of medication dosage to suit children increases the potential for error.
  • When a child is being treated in a primarily adult-focused healthcare setting, the staff may lack the necessary training protocols and reference materials to safely prescribe and administer medication to a child. This is particularly relevant in emergency rooms.
  • Children are typically less equipped to physiologically tolerate medication errors because their renal, immune, and hepatic functions are still developing. This is especially true as it relates to children who are younger, small, and already ill.

Types of Childhood Medication Errors

There are a number of different ways that a medication error can occur in childhood, some of which include:

  • An improper dosage or quantity
  • Failing to take a thorough medical history, including any allergies to medications or current medications being taken
  • Prescribing the wrong medication
  • Prescribing the wrong dosage form
  • Using the wrong medication route
  • Preparing the drug incorrectly
  • Incorrect timing
  • Issues with communication among healthcare providers
  • Improper use of pumps
  • Failure to adequately monitor the child
  • Documentation errors

Instances of pediatric medication errors occur far more often than adult cases in operating rooms. Medication errors with chemotherapy medications are also highly common in children.

New Jersey Child Medication Error Attorneys

If your child suffered harm as a result of a medication error, you can pursue damages for medical costs, rehabilitative treatment, long-term care, as well as their pain and suffering. Adverse drug events caused by a pediatrician or other healthcare provider’s negligence can cause irreversible damage. Fortunately, these negligent parties can be held accountable. Call (866)-708-8617 or contact us online to speak with an experienced childhood medical malpractice attorney who can explain your rights. The consultation is free and so are the answers you need.

We serve areas throughout New Jersey and New York, including in Middlesex, Passaic, Teaneck, Parsippany, Elizabeth, Woodbridge, Union, and Hamilton. Our legal team has several offices, including in Newark, New Jersey and Manhattan, New York.

Resource: Preventing pediatric medication errors, The Joint Commission

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