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How doctors can limit liability for medication errors

Doctors in Ohio can often find themselves in a bind when prescribing medication, especially pain medication. If they prescribe too much, they are accused of aiding an addict, and if they prescribe too little or dismiss a patient's pain, they are seen as being negligent. It's important, then, that they take certain steps to limit their liability in case medication errors do occur.

The FDA estimates that 1.3 million patients are injured every year as a result of preventable medication errors. These mistakes can arise at the prescription, dispensing and administration stages or in the administration records. As two studies published by the BMJ illustrate, the majority of mistakes in pediatric facilities are administration errors whereas family practices usually make prescription errors.

The first thing that doctors should do before prescribing painkillers is to access the state's online database tracking all controlled substance prescriptions. If patients are obtaining medication elsewhere, doctors can bring it up. They can also ask for authorization to check patients' other doctors. If patients are evasive in their answers or refuse authorization, it would be best to dismiss them.

Those who wish to get a medication renewed after the first 90 days could be referred to a pain specialist. Doctors should not renew without having patients visit their office. Finally, doctors should carefully document what factors they considered when making particularly hard decisions.

When medication errors arise because of wrongful conduct on the doctor's part, victims may be eligible for compensation. The error may have required them to undergo medical treatment, kept them out of work and even diminished their capacity to earn a living. These and other losses can be covered with a successful medical malpractice claim. Victims will want to consult with a lawyer first. If the grounds are good, an attorney can have experts gather proof and then negotiate for a settlement.

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