Will a Pharmacist’s Fear of Criminal Prosecution Increase the Risk of a Maryland Pharmacy Error?

It is estimated that Maryland medication errors are responsible for up to a third of all preventable deaths in the state. Thus, encouraging safer prescription practices is a paramount concern among lawmakers. According to a recent news report, there is currently ongoing debate on whether imposing criminal sanctions against medical professionals who were found to be negligent would decrease the total number of errors.

Earlier this year, we covered a tragic case involving the death of a hospital patient after he was administered the wrong medication by an attending nurse. The nurse is alleged to have disregarded hospital protocol and overlooked several errors, ultimately resulting in the patient’s death. Although the state health department decided not to revoke the nurse’s license, the local prosecuting authority recently filed reckless homicide charges against her, claiming that her conduct was criminal. If convicted, the nurse could face years in prison.

The local prosecuting authority’s decision to pursue criminal charges against the nurse has triggered a discussion regarding the possible effects that imposing criminal liability against negligent nurses or pharmacists could have on Maryland pharmacy error rates. On the one hand, patient advocates argue that more accountability would increase the amount of care that nurses and pharmacists would provide to each patient. Because the leading cause of pharmacy errors is distraction or inattention, in theory, this would decrease the number of pharmacy errors.

According to an article covering the case against the nurse, nurses, pharmacists, and others in the medical community are claiming that criminalizing a medical professional’s negligence may have a chilling effect on health care workers’ willingness to report errors. Those who advance this argument claim that medical professionals will refrain from reporting their own errors as well as the mistakes of colleagues if there is a potential that reporting an error may result in criminal prosecution. Supporters also argue that a non-punitive approach focusing on transparency will allow researchers to better understand the root causes of pharmacy errors, which may lead to technological advancements or better policies and protocols.

Interestingly, this is the same argument that nurses and pharmacists cite anytime there is a bill or policy proposed that would establish any form of liability – criminal or civil – based on an error. One would hope, and perhaps expect, that a medical professional should do the right thing regardless of the personal consequences involved. However, even spokespersons for the industry seem to fear that would not be the case.

Have You Been the Victim of a Maryland Pharmacy Error?

If you or someone you care about has recently been injured as a result of a nurse’s or pharmacist’s negligence, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit. At the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC we represent clients who have been injured due to Maryland medication errors and other instances of medical malpractice. We have decades of experience assisting clients pursue claims for compensation based on the serious injuries they sustained, and look forward to meeting with you to discuss your situation. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

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