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Last time, our blog discussed the importance of accurate measurements and precise calculations in the medical realm. In particular, we discussed how any imprecision concerning administered medications can often mean the difference between life and death for a patient.
By way of illustration, we began talking about a case out of California, where the parents of a newborn baby believe that a significant — yet entirely avoidable — medication error is perhaps to blame for their child’s being placed on life support.
According to reports, the couple’s son was born prematurely this past fall but was nevertheless in good health. However, he was admitted to the hospital nearly a month after his discharge following a diagnosis of viral meningitis.
While understandably distraught by the diagnosis, the parents were relieved that physicians had identified the problem before it was too late. They then prepared to settle in for a long stay in the intensive care unit until their son had fully recovered.
As it turns out, nothing could prepare them for what happened next.
During the course of his hospital stay, the couple’s son was administered Acyclovir, a drug that is typically used to treat viral infections and whose maximum dosage recommendation is 168 milligrams in 24 hours. However, the couple’s son was given 280 milligrams of Acyclovir at one time by the attending pharmacist, a full 112 milligrams above the recommended dosage.
The parents allege that the health of their child declined shortly after this mistake was made, as his heart stopped, his brain started to swell and he had to be placed on a ventilator. While he is still alive today, he has very limited brain function.
“I was aware he was sick but they pushed him over the edge,” said the father.
The child’s parents are understandably upset over not only the drug error, but also over what they felt was the cavalier attitude of the pharmacist who made the mistake and the general stance of the hospital toward the mistake.
Specifically, the hospital has gone on the record to declare that while the improper dosage of Acyclovir — something it blames on a failure to follow “comprehensive quality and safety medication processes” — could have harmed the child’s liver or kidneys, his current condition can only be attributed to the severity of the viral meningitis.
“They evaded the fact that he received over 24-hours worth of medication all at one time,” said the father of the hospital’s explanation.
It should be interesting to see if the family decides to pursue justice in a court of law. Stay tuned for updates …
Those hurt by medication errors should strongly consider speaking with an experienced attorney to learn more about their rights and their options.
Source: NBC Southern California, “Weeks-old baby overdosed during meningitis treatment: Parents,” Vikki Vargas, Jan. 2, 2014