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Liability For Administering Drugs

When prescribing drugs to treat a patient, a physician is expected to use the same standard of care and skill that is normally possessed and exercised under the same circumstances by physicians in good standing in the same or similar locations. In most cases, a doctor is liable for injuries to a patient resulting from the administration of the wrong drug. Some courts have found that the manufacturers’ inserts containing use recommendations are prima facie evidence of the standard of care to be followed by physicians in using the medication, but other courts have concluded that this information from manufacturers is admissible only as some evidence as to the standard of care, not rising to the level of prima facie evidence.

Some medical malpractice actions result from the proper use of a drug that unfortunately causes a severe side effect in a patient. Most courts agree that the mere occurrence of side effects does not make the prescribing physician liable for the resulting injury unless the physician was negligent in failing to discover the patient’s hypersensitivity to the drug or in failing to follow established medical procedures to minimize the chances of an adverse reaction. Thus, a doctor can be found liable for the administration of a drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration if he knew or should have known that the particular patient was unusually sensitive to the medication.

When a patient is injured from a defective drug, most courts refuse to allow recovery against health care providers in actions based on no-fault products liability theories such as strict liability. Application of the doctrine of strict liability against physicians would make them liable for prescribing unreasonably dangerous drugs without proof of negligence, and courts have concluded that physicians are engaged in providing a professional service, not in the business of selling or distributing drugs.