Pharmacist Jailed for Fatal Medication Error

An Ohio pharmacist spent six months in jail for a medication error that led to the death of a two year-old child. Emily Jerry’s parents took her to a Cleveland hospital in February 2006 for the last of a series of cancer treatments. Her doctors ordered an intravenous chemotherapy solution. A pharmacy technician prepared her medication with the incorrect dosage of saline, 23 percent instead of 1 percent, and supervisor Eric Cropp signed off on the technician’s work. The saline amount proved to be lethal. Emily slipped into a coma shortly after the solution was administered, and she died several days later.

Cropp lost his pharmacist license and was charged with involuntary manslaughter for Emily’s death. The pharmacy technician who prepared the solution testified to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy that she told Cropp something was wrong with the mixture, but that he approved it anyway. Evidence presented in the criminal case depicted an overburdened pharmacy and staff, indicating that the pharmacy’s computer system was down the day of Emily’s death and the pharmacy was short-staffed, leading to a backlog of orders. Testimony suggested that the pharmacy had rushed and difficult working conditions. The specific chemotherapy solution for Emily was also evidently requested on an expedited basis. Cropp was found guilty and sentenced to six months in prison in August 2009. The pharmacy tech who actually mixed the solution apparently faced no criminal penalties.

Pharmacy representatives and advocates criticized the verdict and punishment for criminalizing a human error, albeit a tragic one. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices compared the process of investigating and criminally prosecuting a pharmacist to a game of “Whack-A-Mole,” with multiple government entities each swinging at the exposed medical professional. It also claimed that the pharmacist in this case was just one part of a larger, often-dysfunctional process. As a convicted felon, Cropp will never work in a pharmacy again.

While Cropp’s criminal case was ongoing, lawmakers were reviewing the fact that Ohio did not require pharmacy technicians to be licensed by the state. Republican state senator Ted Grendell proposed a bill that became known as “Emily’s Law” in July 2007, requiring a competency test for pharmacy technicians and imposing criminal penalties on both pharmacists and technicians for performing pharmacy work without meeting the new qualifications. Governor Ted Strickland signed the bill into law in January 2009.

Maryland’s system is similar to, though less strict than, the system enacted in Ohio. The state requires pharmacy technicians to complete an approved training program and register with the State Board of Pharmacy. Technicians who fail to register, as well as the pharmacists who supervise them, may face disciplinary action and could lose the right to register in the future. The Board of Pharmacy lists multiple acceptable training programs. It notes that the program must not exceed six months. Final responsibility for medications still lies with the pharmacist.

Patients who have suffered injury due to hospital pharmacy errors have rights to compensation for their damages. If you or a loved one have suffered harm from a medication error, contact the Maryland pharmacy error attorneys at Lebowitz and Mzhen to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

Web Resources:

Pharmacy Technician Registration Information, Maryland Board of Pharmacy
Emily’s Law website

More Blog Posts:

Infant Dies of Accidental Antibiotic Overdose in Hospital, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, November 9, 2011
Hospital Patients are Subject to an Average of One Medication Error per Day, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, September 14, 2011
Safety of Electronic Medical Records Questioned After Pharmacy Error Leads to Death of Infant, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, August 3, 2011
Photo credit: bosela from morguefile.com

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