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Medication errors can be fatal in nursing homes

Though we don't like to think about it, when we hear the terms nursing home neglect or abuse, we think of inadequate staffing or failure to supervise patients. As uneasy as it makes us feel that nursing homes in Massachusetts are negligently taking care of our loved ones, the reality is that it is very common and can take many forms, including medication errors.

Certain anticoagulants are used commonly in nursing homes, as they play an essential role in decreasing the risk of strokes in patients and also other conditions that could cause blood clots. Unfortunately, these same medicines can make it impossible for the body to stop bleeding internally and when the dosage is incorrect, it can lead to fatal results. According to a study published by the American Journal of Medicine a decade ago, more than 30,000 patients died due to two popularly administered anticoagulants.

These casualties happen because doctors administer them improperly, do not consider interactions with other drugs or do not monitor patients who have been given the medicine. If used properly, there is no doubt that anticoagulants prolong lives and are beneficial for patients, but there is a clear potential for misuse. If too much of the medicines are given, the patient can bleed out. But, if too little is given it raises the possibility of a stroke.

There is very little regulation of these medicines, even though the most commonly used anticoagulants contribute to the most common prescription errors in the country. When a nursing home is not providing a reasonable standard of care to its patients, it may be possible to hold them accountable through a personal injury lawsuit.

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