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As those who read my posts know, tort reform is a hot topic in the heatlh care debate. As the theory of the tort reformers goes, tort reform is needed because juries don’t know what they are doing and they dispense "jackpot justice" to undeserving plaintiffs. According to the tort reformers, these thoughtless juries just hand out multi-million dollar awards like a drugstore hands out prescription drugs (pun intended, see below). Huge amounts of money are paid out in "frivolous" cases and good doctors are ushered out of town because malpractice rates are made unreasonable by these greedy people who get these ridiculous awards. Do you buy this baloney? Let me tell you a real story about real people who were seriously effected by the negligence of a professional. You be the judge; I’d like to hear from you.

The family of a breast cancer victim who died as the result of being prescribed the wrong dose of Warfarin (a blood thinner) has been awarded $33 million in their five year legal battle against Walgreen’s. The unfortunate woman was prescribed the blood thinner to help fight breast cancer; she was given a 90% chance of full recovery with chemotherapy, radiation, and medication. When she filled her prescription at a local Walgreen’s, the pharmacy gave her 10 times the amount prescribed. After a month of the wrong dosage, the woman began suffering severe headaches and was rushed to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage. She suffered a stroke, went into a coma, and was left paralyzed. Although she regained some mobility, she was not strong enough to finish her breast cancer treatment; the cancer spread and she died in January 2007, four years after Walgreen’s fatal error. Her death was preventable. Her treatment for cancer was prevented due to the deadly error of a pharmacy technician.

At first glance, the reader would assume that pharmacy dosage mistakes are rare, right? A pharmacist or technician reads a doctor prescription, pulls the medication off the shelf, counts out the pills, puts them in a vial, and puts on a label with instructions. Simple process, mistakes unusual, right? Wrong! The number of prescriptions filled is exorbitant and climbing all the time. Dispensing errors are becoming a huge problem. One of the most common pharmacy dispensing errors is giving out the wrong drug. The other is giving the right drug, but the wrong dosage, as was the case with our unfortunate victim.

Although medications have specified marks on them, such as the drug name, number, code and this identification is also noted on the prescription bottle, this does not mean the prescription is correct. It is important to know your medication and check the label and the actual pills. And, safety begins with your doctor. Make sure your doctor knows what other medications you are taking, and any allergies you may have. Ask your doctor to write down “clearly and legible” what he is prescribing, the dosage, and any other important information. Share all this information with the pharmacist. Pharmacists receive much more information about prescription drugs than a doctor. Double check what you receive.

And remember, a white coat does not make a pharmacist. Pharmacists are required to complete hours of training and know about drugs and their reactions. Yet, many times the “white-coat” person who enters the prescription into the computer, pulls the medicine, and places it in a vial, and affixes the label is not a pharmacist. Furthermore, some states do not have medical requirements for technicians, and some may have nothing more than a high school diploma and some on-the-job-training. Of course, the pharmacist should check the technician, but we all know that doesn’t always happen. That is what, apparently, happened in this case; the "white-coat" technician filled the prescription and the pharmacist did not provide appropriate oversight. If it did, a wife and mother might still be a source of love, joy and comfort to her husband and children. Many times the pharmacy is understaffed or a pharmacist is alone to fill prescriptions, answer phones, and run the cash register. In this case, it was reported that Walgreen’s was understaffed and using an untrained 19-year-old pharmacy technician to distribute medications. Do not take the mechanics of your prescription transactions for granted. Don’t assume nothing can go wrong.

If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of someone else’s careless decision, you should seek legal counsel. Additionally, Lawsuit Financial can help families going through the emotional and financial stress from a wrongful death. No amount of money will ever replace your loved one, but as time goes on, the bills may pile up. There are funeral expenses, medical bills, loss of income, pain and suffering, and much more. All this can be devastating to any family. Lawsuit Financial offers litigation funding through difficult times; we assist with your financial burdens while your lawyer seeks appropriate justice.

So, is this an appropriate verdict for the negligent actions of the professionals charged with this woman’s care? Tort reform would substantially reduce it, prevent us from holding Walgreen’s responsible, and encourage, through lack of punishment and accountability, the repetition of this type of mistake. We cannot let this happen in America. Tort reform is a recipe for disaster; if the tort reformers have their way, we will all be less safe.

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