Mistakes Made in Chemotherapy Prescribing and Administration

mistakes in prescription chemotherapy

mistakes in chemotherapy prescribing

Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyer Explains Mistakes Made in Chemotherapy


Everyone knows that chemotherapy is a very strong cocktail meant to kill invasive and aggressive cancerous cells.  This means that the chemotherapy itself is also very strong and aggressive.  It actually can kill healthy cells and cause a whole host of issues for the human body.  This is why prescribing and administrating chemotherapy must be done properly and safely.  The failure to do so can not only cause serious problems, but it can also result in the wrongful death of an innocent person.  Injuries from improperly prescribed chemotherapy can be Oregon medical malpractice and we explain them as the following.


Why is Chemotherapy Given?


Chemotherapy is generally given for the treatment of cancer. One or more drugs are typically given to the patient in order to eliminate the cancer. Chemotherapy can be given with curative intent, or may be given with palliative intent (to relieve symptoms and prolong the patient’s life). While chemotherapy can be quite effective in the treatment of many types of cancer, there are many side effects that patients can experience, including:


  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Neutropenia (low neutrophil count leading to increased risk for infection)
  • Diarrhea
  • Anemia
  • Thrombocytopenia (increased risk for bleeding or bruising)
  • Dry Mouth
  • Change in taste or smell
  • Cognitive changes
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Skin changes
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Mouth sores or sores in the intestines
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Fertility issues in boys and girls
  • Neuropathy
  • Liver or kidney toxicity


What Mistakes are Made in Chemotherapy Prescribing and Medication? 


According to the National Library of Medicine, chemotherapy errors occur at a rate of one to four per 1000 orders. This is staggeringly high. These errors occur in all stages of the process, including: 


  • Medication prescribing – If a prescriber prescribes the wrong medication, this can be incredibly dangerous for the patient. 
  • Medication ordering – If the wrong medication is ordered, or if the wrong dose is ordered, this can lead to to dangerous consequences. If the patient receives the wrong medication or wrong dose, this can lead to bone marrow suppression along with other severe side effects or even death. 
  • Medication administration – If a medication is given in the wrong way (i.e. a medication that is supposed to be run over an extended period of time is given as an IV push), this can cause hypersensitivity reaction, increased side effects, or even death. 
  • Errors in dose calculation – Chemotherapy is typically calculated based on weight or body surface area. If the wrong weight is inputted into the system or is calculated incorrectly in general, the patient could be given too much or not enough chemotherapy; both with potentially devastating consequences. Additionally, if the wrong dose is drawn up or diluted incorrectly, this too could lead to the patient receiving too much or not enough chemotherapy. 
  • Administration of chemotherapy when it is not indicated based on the patient’s condition – There are strict guidelines that must be adhered to when determining if it is appropriate to administer the chemotherapy. Blood work is checked and must confirm that their labs meet criteria to start the chemotherapy. If lab work is not evaluated and a patient has abnormal labs (i.e. a dangerously low neutrophil count), this can be incredibly dangerous to the patient. 
  • Administration of chemotherapy when there are drug interactions with other medications the patient is taking – This can be incredibly dangerous and can cause cardiac changes along with other enhanced side effects of the chemotherapy drugs, making the drug more potent. This can also lessen the effectiveness of the chemotherapy medication. 


How Can Chemotherapy Errors be Made?


Unfortunately, chemotherapy errors can occur due to negligence. Physicians can prescribe or order the wrong medication for the wrong patient, physicians can order the right medication but for the wrong dose or frequency, nurses can administer the the the medication too quickly or using the wrong method of administration, treatment can be given when not indication based on patients’ condition, the drug can be drawn up incorrectly by the pharmacist or nurse, leading to overdose. 


As you can see all of these things can be quite dangerous. Chemotherapy carries many side effects; most which are manageable. However, if a patient is given the wrong chemotherapy, too much chemotherapy or given chemotherapy when they are too ill to receive it, devastating consequences can occur. Patients may experience the following if a mistake in prescribing or administration of chemotherapy is made:


  • Hospitalization
  • Infection
  • Severe diarrhea leading to dehydration
  • Increased risk for bruising or bleeding
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Irreversible liver or kidney toxicity 
  • Severe anemia or thrombocytopenia requiring blood or platelet transfusion 
  • Loss of the ability to eat due to severe mouth or intestinal sores
  • Emotional distress
  • Irreversible neuropathy, leading to permanent damage in sensation in hands or feet. This may interfere with the ability of the patient to care for themselves. 


How Can our Medical Malpractice Lawyers Help You if You are the Victim of a Chemotherapy Error?


Our Oregon medical malpractice lawyers can help you by protecting your rights and will ensure you receive the justice you deserve. Cancer patients in Oregon who have were a victim of an error in chemotherapy prescribing or administration and suffered ill effects as a consequence of the event may be entitled to damages. 


Damages are often awarded in the form of compensation for medical bills, lost wages, lost future earnings, and pain and suffering amongst many other indications for damages. Chemotherapy errors should never happen. They can lead to life threatening consequences, including death.


Injured Due to Chemotherapy?  Call Our Law Firm Now


If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice contact the Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Kuhlman Law at our number below or fill out the intake form.  We offer a free initial case evaluation and handle cases on a contingency fee which means that you pay no money unless we recover.


Our law firm handles cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Central Oregon, Sisters, Madras, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, La Grande, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Pendleton,  Cottage Grove, Florence, Oregon City, Springfield, Keizer, Grants Pass, McMinnville, Tualatin, West Linn, Forest Grove, Wilsonville, Newberg, Roseburg, Lake Oswego, Klamath Falls, Happy Valley, Tigard, Ashland, Milwakie, Coos Bay, The Dalles,  St. Helens, Sherwood, Central Point, Canby, Troutdale, Hermiston, Silverton, Hood River, Newport, Prineville, Astoria, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Hillsboro, and Vancouver, Washington.


We also have an office in Minneapolis, Minnesota and take medical malpractice cases throughout the Twin Cities, including St. Paul, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Dakota County, Washington County, Anoka County, Scott County, Blaine, Stillwater, and Saint Paul Minnesota.

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