I found out by looking on the Internet that I have been taking the wrong tablets for a thyroid disorder for more than three months. Can I claim compensation for medication errors against my doctor?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

Answer:

In order to claim compensation for medication errors in Ireland, it will need to be proved that you have suffered a loss, an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition due to an avoidable error by your doctor or the pharmacist who dispensed the tablets to you. There are many diseases and illnesses which have symptoms similar to a thyroid disorder and it may be possible that your doctor has misdiagnosed your condition or changed medications mid-way through your treatment if the original medication prescribed for you was not effective.

Medication errors in Ireland are a rare occurrence, and not all of them will result in a “negative event”; however you will be able to claim compensation for a medication error if you have suffered due to one of the following scenarios which “in the circumstances and at the time” could have been avoided with greater care and represented a failure by your doctor or pharmacist maintain their duty of care towards you:-

  • You were prescribed the wrong medication
  • You were prescribed the wrong dosage of medication
  • The pharmacist dispensed the wrong medication or wrong dosage
  • You were prescribed a medication which caused an avoidable allergic reaction
  • You were prescribed medication for too short/too long a period of time to be effective
  • You were prescribed a medication which conflicted with an existing prescribed medication

How much compensation for medication errors you may be entitled to receive will depend on the extent and severity of the “negative event” that you have suffered, how long you have suffered from it and what the likelihood is of recovering from an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition caused by the medication error. A solicitor preparing a medication error compensation claim will also take into account the effect that an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition has on your quality of life and lack of ability to perform everyday activities, drive and work.

One very significant factor in claims for compensation for medication errors is “contributory negligence”. The term contributory negligence relates to any lack of care you may have shown which contributed to the extent of your injuries or the deterioration of an existing condition. For example, if you were dispensed a prescription three months ago which contained tablets of a different colour or size from what you had been prescribed previously, it would be questioned why you did not bring this to the attention of your doctor or pharmacist.

Similarly, if you have been taking prescribed tablets for the past three months which have made you ill – yet you continued to take them while your condition deteriorated – a medication error compensation claim may be contested on the grounds that you contributed to the cause or extent of your illness by your own negligence. If you have been guilty of contributory negligence, this may not disqualify you from claiming compensation for medication errors, but it may affect how much compensation for a medication error you receive.

With there being a number of possible scenarios in which a medication error may have occurred, many different consequences of taking the wrong medication for a thyroid disorder and the possibility that you may have exacerbated your injury by your own lack of care, it is understandable that no two claims for compensation for medication errors are the same. Consequently it is recommended that you contact an experienced medical negligence solicitor to establish that you have a claim for medication errors compensation which is worth your while to pursue and obtain advice that is relevant to your personal situation.