Medical Malpractice and Children – 20 Tips to Help Prevent It

 1.  Be involved in decision making concerning your child’s healthcare.  

The most important and effective way to help prevent medical errors is to be involved and active in all decisions that are made concerning your child’s healthcare. It is your right and duty to know what specifically is occurring during your child’s medical treatment.  Research shows that parents that are active in the decision making process their children’s medical treatment obtain better results.

2.  Make sure all of your child’s medical providers know every drug that your child is taking.  

Your child’s medical providers should be informed of not only all of the prescription you child is taking but should also be informed of all of the over-the-counter medications, vitamins and any dietary supplements.  In addition to these medications, the doctors should also be fully informed of his or her weight.   If your child regularly takes medications, it is a good practice to schedule an appointment once a year to specifically discuss his or her overall drug therapy.  This meeting will force the physician to re-evaluate your child’s overall drug therapy and access any changes in the child’s symptoms, physical findings or his or her lifestyle.

3.  Make sure that every medical provider knows of all or your child’s allergies to drugs and what those reactions may be.  

It is a frequent mistake of parents to warn the child’s regular physician of drug allergies and forget to warn a specialist or a medical provider only seen on one occasion.  One such oversight occurs frequently while a family is on vacation or during holiday visits out of town and the child requires minor medical treatment of some kind.  First, the parents in no way planned the visit to the physician or hospital and were caught off guard.  Second, everyone is in a rush to return to the vacation or holiday activities.  This is a frequent and common mistake of even the most careful of parents.   

4.  Anytime a physician or nurse practitioner writes your child a prescription, make sure you can read it.

If you can’t read the prescription, the pharmacist or more-likely the pharmacy technician may not be able to read it.  ASK THEM TO PRINT THE NAME OF THE DRUG – if you are unable to read it.  It’s your child’s right to not have a medical mistake to affect his or her life.  Require them to read the drug and tell you specifically how much and how often it should be taken.    DO NOT WORRY ABOUT OFFENDING THE PERSCRIBER.  It’s better them being offended than your child being affected.

5.  When the pharmacy hands your child’s medicine,  ask the pharmacy tech to verify that this is the medicine your doctor prescribed?

There are several published reports that suggest that upwards of 90% of harm caused by errors in medicine, simply involve the wrong drug or the wrong dose.

6.  When you receive your child’s medicine at the hospital or pharmacy, ask for information about your child’s medicines in terms you can understand.

What is the name of the medicine? What is the purpose of taking the medicine? How often is my child supposed to take it, and for how long? What are the possibilities of side effects? How likely is the occurrence of side effects? What do I do if side effects occur? Is this medicine safe for my child to take with other medicines or dietary supplements? What food, drink, or activities should my child avoid while taking this medicine? Is the dose of this medicine appropriate for my child based on his or her weight? When should I see an improvement? What do I do if I don’t see an improvement in that amount of time?

7.  Ask about any questions you may have regarding the directions on the label of your child’s medicines.

The directions given on the labels can be hard to understand and just plain misleading.  A common question is, “doses three times daily” means taking a dose every eight hours around the clock or just “three times daily” during the hours your child is awake.  Make sure you, the doctor and the pharmacist are all on the same page when it comes to the proper dosage for your child’s medicine.

8.  Ask the pharmacist which measuring device is best for measuring your child’s liquid medicines.  If you’re not sure, ask specifically how to use the device.  It is also a good idea to ask for a demonstration if you are still not sure you understand how to properly use the measuring device.

Household teaspoons often do not hold a true teaspoon of liquid.  Research has shown that this long time home remedy medical device is not very accurate.  If it is not help exactly level the dosage amounts can be off up to 40%.  There are better devices such as marked oval syringes and open handle spoons with measuring indicating lines that are readily available at most pharmacies.   Remember, ask who to use these devices if you have any doubts.

9.  Ask for written materials containing any information about the side effects that your child’s medicine could cause.  

If you know on the front end of what the possible side effects of the medicine are, then you have a better chance of identifying the side effects because you know what to look for.  This early identity of the signs of the side effects will allow you to report the problem right away and seek proper medical advise before the problem gets worse. If your child experiences any known or unknown side effects, alert the prescribing medical provider or doctor right away.

Hospital Stays  

10.  Choose a hospital that regularly treats children and the specific medical problems that your child is experiencing.

Research shows that patients tend to have better results when they are treated in hospitals which have more experience with the specific condition than those which do not have the experience.  Find out how many times in the past thie hospital hav had patients with your child’s condition.  Also, during your child’s stay in the hospital, make sure he or she is always wearing an identification bracelet at all times.

11.  During your child’s hospital stay, ask all health care workers who have direct contact with your child to wash their hands.  

Hand washing is an important way to prevent the spread of infections in hospitals. Yet, it is not done regularly or thoroughly enough. A study found that when patients checked whether health care workers washed their hands, the workers washed their hands more often and used more soap. Placing a sign on the foot of you child’s bed asking all who come in contact with your child to wash their hands is also a good idea.  If any of the hospital workers are offended, ask that they not be allowed to come in contact with your child.

12. Upon discharge from the hospital, ask your child’s doctor to explain the treatment plan after you get home.

This includes learning about your child’s medicines, dosage and possible side effects as stated above.  Also ask of the recommended activity level of the child.  Find out when he or she can get back to being a kid.  Research shows that at discharge time, doctors assume parents understand more than they really do about what they should or should not do once they return home with their child.


13.  If your child is having surgery, make sure that you, your child’s doctor, and the surgeon all agree and are clear on exactly what will be done.

Do not assume that the surgeon know what operation he will be performing on your child.  Doing surgery at the wrong site (for example, operating on the left leg instead of the right leg) is rare-but even once is too often. The good news is that wrong-site surgery is 100 percent preventable. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons urges its members to sign their initials directly on the site to be operated on before the surgery.

Other Tips to Prevent Medical Mistakes

14.  If you have you have any questions or the slightest concern – speak up.

You not only have the right to question anyone who is involved with your child’s care, courts regularly hold that it is the duty of a parent to ask questions and address concerns of their child’s healthcare when it comes to medical malpractice.

15. Make sure that you know who (such as your child’s pediatrician or nurse practitioner) is in charge of his or her care.

This is especially important if your child has many health care providers or is in a hospital.  It is important to have one practitioner in charge of running the team.  It is important to have one person calling the shots as would a coach of a sports team.

16. Make sure that all health professionals involved have all of the needed information concerning your child’s healthcare history.
Do not assume that all of your child’s healthcare providers have all of the information that they need.  Don’t be afraid to ask the health care professionals what if any assumptions they are making about your child’s past medical history or your family’s healthcare history.

17. Ask a friend or another family member to be there with you and to be your child’s healthcare advocate.  

Choose someone who can help get things done and speak up for you if you are not the assertive type or feel you can’t be an excellent advocate for your child’s healthcare.

18. Ask why each test or procedure is being performed and how the test or procedure is aimed at furthering your child’s medical treatment.   It is a good idea to find out why a test, procedure or treatment is needed.  Also find out how it can help – or hurt your child. Ask what are the benefits vs. what are the risks inherent to the procedure or treatment? Your child just might be better off without the test, procedure or treatment.

19. If your child has a test, ask the healthcare provider when the results will be available and how you get the results.

If you do not hear from the lab, nurse or physician after the results should have been back, call to ask about the test results and how they affect your child’s healthcare.

20. Learn all you can about your child’s condition and treatment options by asking your doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional and also by using other reliable sources such as medical journals and the internet.

Ask your child’s doctor if his or her treatment is based on the latest medical research.  Be careful when researching your child’s medical condition, diagnosis or treatment options on the web.  Make sure to use reliable sites only.  You can find a site to say just about anything you want a site to say.    

Be Assertive!  

If we could answer any questions you may have, please call or click to speak directly with an attorney at Keith Williams Law Group.
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