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Whose error is it when I get the wrong medication?

Trust is foundational in the doctor-patient relationship. A patient who does not trust their doctor may hide embarrassing symptoms and cause a false diagnosis. A doctor that does not trust their patient may over-test to avoid the appearance of neglect.

When it is time to prescribe medication, you trust your doctor to give you something that will improve your condition. When you get the wrong medication, however, it can have terrible consequences.

Here’s what you should know about medication errors and who makes them.

The doctor prescribed the wrong medicine

The drug names you hear on commercials are complicated enough; some of the ones scratched on a prescription pad seem almost unintelligible. Still, you trust your doctor to put the correct name on the prescription so that you can begin feeling better.

Unfortunately, thousands of people in the United States die each year because of medication errors. Numerous circumstances can lead to a doctor prescribing the wrong medication, including:

  • Distraction
  • Poor handwriting
  • Failure to double check for errors

Pay attention to what your doctor prescribes and why. Your extra attention to detail can help ensure you receive medication that will help you, not harm you.

Pharmacy error

It seems that pills now come in all shapes and sizes. While it may help pharmacists tell them apart, an unsuspecting patient only knows to follow the directions on the bottle and assumes that the contents are correct.

Of course, pharmacists are looking at more than appearance to decide which pills go where, but visual cues are one of the ways pharmacists avoid errors. Unfortunately, pharmacists have some of the same difficulties as physicians when it comes to giving you the correct medication.

Pay attention to the people on your medical team when they dispense your medication. Before taking it home, confirm with them what medicine is in the container and what it should do for you.

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