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Why Hospital Staff Give the Wrong Medication

There’s a big problem in hospitals across America. Each year, more than 1.5 million patients have their health jeopardized due to receiving the wrong medication while in the hospital. While these never events should not occur at all, it is important to understand why hospital staff may give patients the wrong medication and what can happen when they do.

Syringe Swap

Giving patients the wrong medication (also called a syringe swap) is usually a matter of severe negligence. Many drug names are difficult to read and pronounce, and so hospital staff have a tendency to mix up drug names that are either visually similar in text or sound similar when read aloud. This issue is so serious and common that the Institute for Safe Medication Practices has created a list of all the medications that fall under these categories.

For example, a nurse might confuse diltiazem with diazepam. As a result, the patient with unsafe high blood pressure is treated for anxiety and their blood pressure remains high.

In more serious cases, the term “syringe swap” is literal, especially among anesthesiologists. A doctor might reach into their coat pocket and administer a sedative instead of reversing agent. Not only does this mean the patient is out longer, but it increases the risk of anesthetic overdose, complications, and death, especially among elderly patients.


Getting the wrong medication isn’t the only problem; patients also have to worry about the side effects. Aside from going untreated, they could experience a life-threatening allergic reaction. Likewise, the incorrect medication could negatively interact with their current medications or medical conditions, exacerbating their illness instead of treating it.

A syringe swap is a never event, one of the most serious kinds of medical malpractice. When someone experiences injuries or worsening symptoms due to medication errors, they deserve compensation for their current and future injuries.

If you’d like an experienced Florida personal injury attorney from Gunn Law Group P.A. to evaluate your case, call (813) 993-1448 or send us an email.