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Hospital has a history of medication errors

Just as medical mistakes happen in New York hospitals, the failure to provide appropriate medication can also occur in hospitals across the country. At St. Luke's Hospital in nearby Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, administering the wrong dose, has become a reoccurring problem according to state officials.

In the most recent incidents in a series of "continuing deficienc[ies]," nursing drug errors resulted in two patients receiving ten times the doses prescribed by the doctor. Just months earlier three patients overdosed on pain medications while using self-controlled pumps.

While no one ultimately died from the hospital's failure to provide the appropriate amount of medication, the errors led one patient to a dangerous drop in blood pressure after a nurse mistakenly gave the patient 680 milligrams per hour of Propofol, an anesthetic, instead of the prescribed 68 milligrams per hour. Had other staff not discovered the error and administered medicine for low blood pressure, the mistake might have proven fatal.

When hospitals make mistakes, they may be liable for medical malpractice. To be found liable, a plaintiff has to prove that the hospital is negligent. This means that the hospital must have owed a duty of care to the patient, and failed to fulfill that duty which resulted in foreseeable harm to the plaintiff.

In determining the duty of care owed to patients by the hospital, the law asks whether the health care professional in question acted reasonably. In other words, would a "reasonably prudent" physician in the same or similar circumstances have acted in a similar fashion? If the answer is no then the doctor may be liable for damages.

Source: WFMZ, "Officials: Nursing errors led to overdoses at St. Luke's," Catherine Hawley, April 26, 2012

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