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Medication overdose puts baby on life support

Mistakes happen in hospitals all the time. Many of them are minor mistakes, like a flipped-over x-ray, that can be easily noticed and remedied. Other mistakes are bigger, leading to serious injuries for patients that could have been prevented with better oversight.

In a recent case, a simple mistake has caused serious damage and has resulted in an infant being placed on life support. Parents of a six-week-old baby say that hospital staff accidentally gave their child a massive dose of medication to treat the baby’s meningitis. This caused various types of harm to the baby, including damage to his brain. The family says that the ultimate prognosis is still very unclear and that it could take weeks to learn the full consequences of this mistake.

The hospital has released a statement on the case, saying that an individual pharmacist is responsible for the error. Since the pharmacist is a hospital employee acting on the job, the hospital will be responsible for the damage caused by this mistake.

When something like this happens it is easy to focus on the individual who is being blamed. However, a closer look at the situation raises questions about what could have been done to prevent the overdose. For example, was the order for the medication hand-written or typed? If it was hand-written, was the dosage clear to the person reading it? Another area of inquiry might be whether a nurse or doctor administering the medication checked the chart and compared it with the medication from the pharmacy before administering it. These example show how various elements of hospital protocol can increase or decrease the likelihood of a mistake.

Source: CBS Los Angeles, “Dad Says Hospital Mistake Has His Premature Son on Life Support,” Jan. 3, 2014. 

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Alan D. Bell
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