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What recourse do victims of medication errors have?

Unless there is proof of injury or death, patients and their families have no legal recourse, said Dr. Bruce G. Fagel, who is also a Los Angeles-based medical malpractice attorney. It is possible that injuries could show up much later, therefore in cases involving newborns, like the one at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the victims have up to eight years to sue, he said.

Even if no civil case is brought against a hospital and its employees, state licensing agencies can still take action because they only require evidence of negligence that could "potentially cause a life-threatening injury," Fagel said. The state Department of Public Health is investigating the Cedars-Sinai incident.

But Fagel pointed out that the hospital issued a statement stating that the drug overdoses occurred "as a result of a preventable error, involving a failure to follow our standard procedures and policies."

So it will probably be up to the state Board of Registered Nursing to conduct its own inquiry and take appropriate action against the individual or persons involved, Fagel said.

"It is the nurse who is the final authority, whose job it is to protect the patient," he said. "Even if the bottle is in the wrong drawer, the nurse has the responsibility to look at the drug they are injecting."

Source: Times staff reporting

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