When you take medication, your health and your body are always affected. When you’re pregnant and you take medication, the drug will also affect your baby. That’s the reason that physicians are required to use the utmost care when they prescribe or administer medication to women who are pregnant. Unfortunately, medication errors are not uncommon in the U.S. In fact, as many as 1.5 million people in the country are harmed every year by avoidable medication mistakes, and many of those people are pregnant women.
When errors are made that involve medication, both mother and child can be negatively affected and suffer tragic complications, including birth injuries. The doctors or other medical professionals that cause these errors can be found liable for medical malpractice.
How Do Medication Errors Happen?
Medication errors can occur in several different ways. Pregnant women may experience these mistakes in the following ways:
- A physician prescribes medications that are dangerous to the unborn baby during pregnancy.
- A physician prescribes medications for pregnant women in the wrong dosage.
- A pregnant woman is incorrectly administered drugs during labor.
Many times, medication mistakes are caused by negligence on the part of a doctor or another medical professional or by their failure to employ reasonable competence in the prescription or administration of medication. When negligence occurs and medication errors are made, serious complications, including birth injuries, can affect mother and child, sometimes causing lifelong medical and emotional problems.
What Types of Medication Errors Cause Birth Injuries?
There are several types of medication that can affect a pregnant woman and her unborn child negatively. Some of those include:
- Prescription of drugs that are risky for the baby or which may cause birth defects. There are many drugs that are not tested on expecting women or that are unsafe for unborn babies. Antidepressant medications like Prozac and Paxil are in this category and have been associated with birth injuries that include:
- Heart or brain damage
- Hearing issues
- Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN)
Some other potentially harmful medications for unborn babies include some antibiotics, cancer treatment medications, Accutane (acne medication), and Depakote and Topamax (anti-seizure drugs).
Prescription of “sound-alike” medication instead of the correct medication. There are more than a thousand medications that have similar names but are designed for very different uses. One example of this occurred in 2009 when a woman miscarried her twins when she was given a medication called Prostin (a powerful medication that forces the delivery of a miscarried fetus from the womb) in place of a progesterone suppository.
Prescribing the wrong medication due to the inability to read a physician’s handwriting. While most hospitals now have computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems, there are still a number of handwritten prescriptions given to pregnant women. When the doctor’s handwriting is illegible, serious mistakes can be made in the medication or in the dosage.
Using medications for off-label reasons. There are circumstances when a doctor will use a medication for a different purpose than it was originally approved for. For example, the medication Cytotec was originally approved for the treatment of ulcers and had a warning that it could cause early abortion. But, many doctors found the drug to be more effective at inducing labor than Pitocin. The medication is now prescribed routinely to induce labor despite the fact that it can cause serious complications – even death – in mothers and babies.
- Errors in the administration of anesthesia. Most women opt to receive an epidural for pain management during labor and delivery. If the wrong dose is given, or if the needle is inserted into the wrong area of the spine, there can be tragic consequences for the mother and baby.
Birth Injuries Due to Medication Errors and Malpractice
When a medical professional or hospital makes a medication error that causes a birth injury or injures a mother, the individual or the hospital may be found to be negligent. Medical negligence is based on whether another similar medical professional would have acted differently when presented with the same situation. When a doctor, medical professional, or hospital is found to be negligent, a birth injury lawsuit may be brought against them.
If you or your baby suffered an injury due to a medication error, you should consult a birth injury attorney as soon as possible to determine whether you are entitled to compensation. Ross Feller Casey has an unmatched record of winning major birth injury lawsuits. We have experienced birth injury lawyers and medical doctors on staff to review your medical records and help you determine how to proceed with your case.
There is no charge for a case evaluation and all of our birth injury cases are handled on a contingency basis, which means that you don’t pay anything unless there is a financial recovery in your lawsuit.