Medical malpractice in nursing homes

The Chief of the Division of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School has recently published an article addressing the growing concerns about medication safety in nursing homes. Unfortunately, medical malpractice involving pharmaceutical errors is particularly prevalent among this vulnerable population of individuals currently residing at long-term care facilities in Massachusetts and across the country.

A study of residents who live in long-term care facilities have revealed that 40 percent of all adverse drug events that occurred at these centers were preventable. However, there are many complicated factors that contribute to these prescription mistakes. One reason appears to be that nursing home residents are far more likely than others to have multiple chronic medical conditions and thus are usually taking numerous drugs to treat these conditions. The study also revealed that pharmaceutical errors occurred most often among residents who take multiple medications in different drug categories, such as antipsychotic drugs, anticoagulants and diuretics.

In addition, mistakes in communication are common in nursing home settings. Frequently, medical professionals do not properly communicate information about relevant medical conditions and concurrent medications at the ordering and monitoring stages of a particular drug. Additionally, the frequent transitions this population makes between the emergency room, the hospital and the nursing home enhance the risk of medical professional negligence. This is particularly true when important information is not provided to those medical professionals who prescribe medications.

A nursing home resident who is the victim of medical professional negligence due to a pharmaceutical error does have the ability to seek compensation for his or her injuries. Damages that can be recovered include, but are not limited to, reimbursement of all current and future medical expenses and compensation for pain and suffering.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, AHRQ, “Medication Safety in Nursing Homes: What’s Wrong and How to Fit It,” Jerry H. Gurwitz, Aug., 2012


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