For more information of confidential assistance
Call 800-306-3180

Wichita Hospital Medication Error Causes Epileptic Girl’s Overdose

476400937Last month, news from Wichita, Kansas, highlighted the dangers of hospital medication errors. According to the local news, a mother, Brenda Meyer, brought her epileptic daughter Jody to Wesley Medical Center for treatment. A nurse mistakenly gave Jody five times her prescribed dose of medication. Rather than help her, the additional medication hurt her and the hospital staff spent the next week treating the side effects of the drug.

According to the Meyer, she called the nurse’s attention to the pill and said that it was not the same pill that her daughter usually took. Rather than double check that her information was correct, the nurse told Ms. Meyer that the pill was that which she had been giving the girl during her stay in the hospital.

Ms. Meyer found another nurse, who confirmed that the pill was five times the intended dose. She also admitted that it was the third time the hospital staff had given Jody that dose.

Hospital medication errors are common and underreported

Unfortunately, hospital-administered medication errors are not rare. A 2012 government report studied the rates of hospital errors, and hospitals’ subsequent reporting of their errors, among Medicare patients. Not only are errors in hospital care common, but approximately 80% of the errors go unreported by hospital employees. Frighteningly, in 61% of the cases studied, the hospital staff did not even recognize that it had committed an error.

Hospital error-induced injuries can range from allergic reactions to serious infections, to death.

In the case of the Wichita girl who was overmedicated, the result of the overly large dose was body tremors and weakness. According to her mother, Jody was not able to stand or walk for days. She was also trying to get her epilepsy back under control, but the complications from the drug held her progress back by a week.

Hospital errors are among leading causes of death

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Patient Safety estimates that each year, between 210,000 and 440,000 people who go to the hospital die from some preventable harm related to their care. These numbers put hospital complications as the third leading cause of death, behind only heart disease and cancer. The estimates were calculated by a toxicologist from NASA. His numbers and methods were given votes of confidence from authorities including the American Hospital Association and a Harvard pediatrician, Dr. Lucian Leape, who has been dubbed the “father of patient safety.”

Administrators from Wesley Medical Center have attempted to reduce dosing errors by adopting a computer network called Computer Provider Order Entry. They claim that it has reduced errors since its implementation by taking out factors such as handwriting. However, the hospital admits that there will still occasionally be mistakes in medicating patients.

The Wichita example is a reminder that patients and parents need to be vigilant. Even with computer programs in place to prevent errors, hospital staff will still make dangerous, and even fatal mistakes. Even when Jody’s mother pointed out to a nurse that she was giving her daughter the wrong pill, the hospital employee proceeded without double checking the order.