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Medical errors after hospital discharge

Although time in a New Mexico hospital could be challenging because of potential exposure to various germs and bacteria, the time following discharge is actually viewed as much more dangerous for a patient. The transition out of the hospital can include factors such as obtaining prescriptions, coordinating home health services and monitoring one's surgical wounds for signs of infection. A Missouri case demonstrates the impact of a breakdown in care at various levels.

The woman at the center of the situation in question was discharged from a hospital after receiving treatment for congestive heart failure. The hospital called her pharmacy with several new prescriptions, including metolazone. However, the diuretic's name was incorrectly recorded by the pharmacy technician, who wrote down methotrexate, a potent drug used to treat cancer, autoimmune diseases and other serious conditions. Whereas metolazone is prescribed for daily use, methotrexate is typically taken only once per week.

Not only did the pharmacy fail to identify the error with the high-alert medication, but the home health professionals following the woman's condition at home failed to note the error. A home health agency should verify the medications being taken by a patient as they are compared to discharge instructions.

By the time the medication error was discovered, the woman's condition had declined beyond remedy. She perished because of the failure of multiple organs. The woman's family received a settlement from the medical center involved in her care, and a jury trial involving the pharmacy resulted in a $2 million award, which was reduced based on a state cap for medical malpractice cases.

A family could deal with serious challenges if a loved one suffers severe injuries or death because of medical negligence. In such a situation, an attorney could be helpful for determining whether litigation is an appropriate avenue for seeking damages.

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