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Drug shortages can cause patient injury

When people go to the doctor or to the hospital, they expect to receive the best care available. Under Oregon law, people should be able to expect that doctors, nurses and all hospital staff will stand-up to a reasonable standard of care. If this standard is met then there should be no hospital staff negligence.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Doctors, nurses and other staff sometimes fail to live up to what is expected of them and medical mistakes happen. These mistakes can cause serious patient injury and can even be fatal.

In recent years, outside factors have made it even more likely for medical professionals to act negligently. One of these factors is critical drug shortages. Over the last several years, drug shortages on a variety of drugs have led to serious issues in hospitals. These shortages have occurred for a variety of reasons including problems with suppliers. However, as hospitals scramble to find the right medication, mistakes are made — improper substitutes are chosen, dosing errors are made and conditions go untreated.

In particular, some are worried that mistakes will now occur with popular total parenteral nutrition medications that have been in very short supply following a manufacturer’s shutdown. Total parenteral nutrition medications are intravenous drugs that provide life-saving nutrition to premature infants and older patients who are too sick or weak to eat or drink. In order to alleviate the shortage, the federal Food and Drug Administration has allowed a similar product to be shipped into the U.S. from Norway. However, doctors may not be familiar with these new treatments and if proper care is not taken mistakes can happen.

When a person has suffered from hospital staff negligence, that person should understand that legal remedies are available. While hospitals are often seen as a place of healing, when mistakes happen they need to be held accountable. Compensation may be available for people who have suffered from negligent hospital staff including for medication errors.

Source: NWCN, “FDA takes action to ease neonatal drug shortage,” Linda A. Johnson, May 29, 2013