Prescription errors can have serious consequences, impacting the health and well-being of patients.
However, can these mistakes go beyond medical repercussions and result in criminal charges?
The legal landscape
Medication errors result in up to 9,000 deaths every year. When a healthcare professional makes a prescription error, it may be a breach of their duty of care. In certain cases, this breach can escalate from a medical malpractice claim to criminal charges.
One way prescription errors can lead to criminal charges is through criminal negligence. If a healthcare provider’s actions demonstrate a reckless disregard for the safety of their patients, those actions could be criminally negligent. For instance, prescribing an incorrect dosage without proper justification or knowingly ignoring a patient’s allergies could be criminally negligent behavior.
While most prescription errors result from negligence rather than intent, some cases may involve deliberate actions. If a healthcare professional intentionally alters a prescription with malicious intent, criminal charges become a real possibility. This underscores the importance of understanding the motives behind prescription errors.
Healthcare professionals can be legally accountable for their actions, but criminal charges are not automatic consequences of prescription errors. The legal system distinguishes between honest mistakes and actions that demonstrate a willful disregard for patient safety. The key lies in establishing whether the prescription error was a result of negligence or if it crossed the line into criminal conduct.
Establishing criminal negligence or intent requires a thorough examination of the healthcare provider’s actions, intent and the resulting harm. In some instances, it may be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the prescription error was a criminal act.
Healthcare professionals need to strive for accuracy and diligence to avoid prescription errors.