Are DC Children at Risk From Medical Mistakes?

In 2007, actor Dennis Quaid’s newborn twins almost lost their lives. Just days after their birth, Thomas and Zoe Quaid were accidentally given an overdose of the blood thinner heparin while at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The babies received 10,000 units per milliliter of heparin, 1,000 times the infant does of 10 units per milliliter.

Fortunately, the children recovered, but the mistake could have been fatal. Three premature infants died at an Indiana hospital after a pharmacy technician mistakenly stocked the medicine cabinet with the wrong dose of heparin.

We have some excellent hospitals in the DC area, but medical mistakes are very common. A 2011 Health Grades report estimated that over 40,000 harmful or lethal medical errors occur each day. These errors are especially harmful to children.

Three Reasons Children Risk Serious Injury From Medical Errors
  • Children are smaller than adults and their organ systems are still developing. This means that even a small increase in medication can have drastic consequences.
  • Children aren’t always able to effectively communicate how they feel. This makes it difficult to diagnose medical conditions or recognize complications.
  • When children are ill, their condition can deteriorate very quickly, much faster than adults.

Medication errors, like the miscalculation that injured Thomas and Zoe Quaid, are especially common in children. A 2008 study in the journal Pediatrics found that medication errors affect at least 11 percent of children who are in the hospital. Another study found that medication errors affect one in four children who receive outpatient care. About one-third of these errors involve the wrong dose of the drug.

Most adults can use prepackaged, standardized doses of medicines. Doses for children vary based on height and weight. Doctors must calculate dosage. It’s easy for a decimal point to get misplaced.

Once the doctor calculates the dosage, the pharmacy must mix the medicine. In many cases, the adult dosage is diluted. The amount may be tiny—too small to measure accurately.

Five Ways Parents Can Protect Children From Medical Errors
  • Provide your doctor with a list of all the medications, homeopathic remedies, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements that your child is taking. Let your doctor if know if there is a possibility that your child may be taking illegal drugs. This information will be kept confidential.
  • Tell your doctor about any allergies your child has and any unusual reactions to medications.
  • Check that the doctor has your child’s current height and weight and that this information was used when calculating the dose.
  • Learn the new medication’s name, the dose, what it looks like, and why it is being prescribed.
  • Ask about any potential side-effects or cross reactions.

Children also experience hospital-acquired infections, diagnostic errors, catheter injuries, surgical mistakes, and incorrect procedures or tests.

If your child is the victim of a medical mistake, you deserve justice. A medical malpractice lawsuit will provide compensation for your child’s medical bills and other damages related to his injury. But, filing a medical malpractice claim is about more than money. Your lawsuit lets hospitals and doctors know that they must take steps to reduce medical mistakes or be held accountable. To learn more, please contact Lewis & Tompkins.

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