The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers a medication error “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer.” Medication errors can occur in patients of any age, but newborns may be at a higher risk of injury for several reasons. If you believe your baby’s injuries are due to incorrect dosage or administration, call a New York medication errors lawyer from Buttafuoco & Associates.
The Risk of Medication Use During Pregnancy and Labor
Because everything given to the mother during pregnancy and labor may affect the baby, doctors must prescribe or administer medications only after they have determined that the medicine will not negatively affect mother or baby.
Doctors must be extremely careful to administer proper doses of these medications. An overdose that causes maternal distress can lead to severe fetal trauma or death.
Doctors must also be careful to review all dosages he gives a newborn. Because the infant has not fully developed mechanisms for eliminating high concentrations of medications, it is easier for an overdose to occur.
According to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, the following are high-risk medications commonly administered during labor:
- Magnesium sulfate
- Potassium chloride
- Epidural or intrathecal medications
Examples of Incorrect Medication Dosage Injuries During Pregnancy
Doctors commonly administer magnesium sulfate during pregnancy and labor to prevent preeclampsia, eclampsia, and preterm labor. However, magnesium is a high-alert medication and doctors must take extreme care when administering it.
A 2004 report from the American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing found 52 cases of incorrect magnesium sulfate dosing during labor or delivery. Several of these cases resulted in death or serious injury to the mother or infant. The most common error leading to the overdose was a rapid infusion of a complete bag of magnesium sulfate.
Oxytocin is another common pregnancy and labor drug that doctors may give in an incorrect dose. Doctors give this medication to promote contractions during stalled labor. An overdose of Oxytocin can cause:
- Tumultuous labor
- Cervical and vaginal lacerations
- Uterine rupture
- Postpartum hemorrhage
- Deceleration of the fetal heart rate
- Fetal hypoxia
Because Oxytocin is an antidiuretic, water intoxication can occur in the mother, causing injury to her and potential injury or death to the fetus.
Pump programming errors, improper medication labeling, and failure to review medication dose are all examples of how an incorrect dosage of medication can occur.
Short- and Long-term Effects of Incorrect Medication Dosage
Resolution of some medication dose errors can occur through countermeasures and elimination processes with little harm. Other serious cases can result in severe damage to body systems, brain damage, or death. Because these damages take place at the beginning of life, they can create permanent health complications for your newborn.
Compensation for both short- and long-term damages is recoverable in a birth injury lawsuit if you can prove a doctor or pharmacist’s negligence caused injury or death to mother or child. To prove negligence, you must establish the incorrect dose of medication was the direct cause of the injury. You must also establish there was a breach of protocol for preventing this error, or the error would have been preventable if the doctor followed the standard of care.
In the event of the death of an infant, many legal issues arise. The timing of the death and cause are of extreme importance to properly file the case against the liable doctor or pharmacist. If a fetus dies in utero, arguments arise over whether there is a separate claim for wrongful death of the fetus. If the death occurs shortly after delivery, it is a separate wrongful death case for that infant.
Proving cases of birth injury or death due to medication errors is difficult without the right resources. Buttafuoco & Associates can help you develop your case of medical negligence or wrongful death and advocate on your behalf. Call 1-800-NOW-HURT to schedule a free case review.