Medical Malpractice: Deadly Drug Overdoses


Hospitals are supposed to be a place where health and safety come first as a competent team of well-educated, highly-trained nurses and doctors tend to their needy patients. However, when long hours lead to fatigue– when poor practices and policies are in place– when hospitals just aren’t putting a patient’s health and safety first, medical malpractice happens. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, medical malpractice is a common instance today. This may be because the fast-paced, modern environment leads to greater error, or it may be because the public is no longer afraid to hold those responsible for an accident liable– including doctors. However, it may also be because doctors are now held to a higher standard of care. Regardless, as a result of the rising instance of medical malpractice claims, many doctors have begun to practice defensive medicine, which is a hot topic and heated debate all its own.


The National Practitioner Data Bank has released data on medical malpractice, which Diederich Healthcare has compacted into an informative infographic that shows just how common and dangerous medical malpractice can be:

  • The majority of the medical malpractice claims were related to a wrongful diagnosis and errors or mistakes during surgery.
  • 37 percent of people who were the victim of medical malpractice suffered significant and major permanent injury.
  • 12 percent of people who were the victim of medical malpractice injury required life long care.
  • 31 percent of people who were the victim of medical malpractice died.

The Deadly Overdose

One common form of medical malpractice is a deadly drug overdose.

In 2011, a six month old baby was administered a lethal dose of antibiotics to treat what the family thought was just a fever and the hospital diagnosed as the early stages of pneumonia. As there were no hospital beds available in the emergency room, he was still in his stroller when he was hooked up to an IV by a nurse, who has since been fired. He was given 500 mg of Zithromax through the IV drip– the recommended dose for a baby is just 80 mg. That’s more than six times the recommended amount. After receiving the lethal antibiotics, the baby went into a coma and died within seconds.

A similar incident happened to a baby who was given ten times more than the recommended dose of calcium chloride; and, a similar incident happened to an autistic teenager who was given a lethal dose of a drug through a Fentanyl patch.

The recovery for medical malpractice cases like this can be high. Recently, a hospital in Chicago agreed to pay 8.25 million to the family when their premature baby– the result of patience, dedication, and faith after the family had already had two miscarriages, died as a result of a drug overdose. The premature baby was given 60 times the recommended amount of sodium chloride.

We have to ask ourselves the following questions:

  • How do these mistakes happen, and why do they happen so often?
  • Do hospitals and their staff need to work less hours in order to stay more alert? Do they need to enforce better standards of care, policies, and practices?
  • Should patients be warned about pending medical malpractice claims against a hospital before admittance to a hospital?

The answers to these questions are being decided everyday by claims, cases, and the courts that hear these heartbreaking stories.

Jennifer Machie writes for the team of lawyers at The Law Office of W.T. Johnson.

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