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How Much is a Spoonful? Calculating the Correct Dosage of Medication


Mary Poppins may use measuring spoons when she doles out medicines to the Banks children, but every other caregiver in the world prescribes medication using the metric system. Once health care providers diagnose a patient and determine what medicine is necessary to treat them, they then determine the proper dosage. For some medications, like blood thinners, chemotherapy, and certain antibiotics, determining the right dosage requires knowledge of the patient’s weight.

Because the United States is one of three countries in the world that does not use the metric system, these calculations sometimes require healthcare providers to convert measurements from one system to another, for both the medication and the for patient’s weight. As a result, the process of dispensing medicine is not only complicated but also error prone. In fact, according to Regina Hoffman, the executive director of Pennsylvania’s Patient Safety Authority and editor-in-chief of Patient Safety, “prescribing and administering medications to patients” is a “hot mess.”

In her recent article, Hoffman likens calculating medicine dosages to paying for something in one country with currency from another country. Imagine working in a store where every item is labeled in US dollars, yet every customer is using euros to make their purchases. The difference, of course, is that when it comes to medications, miscalculations can have serious, sometimes deadly, consequences.

A “spoonful” can lead to medical errors

Hoffman shares the story of a case in Maryland where a two-year-old’s weight was recorded as 35 kilograms (which converts to 77 pounds) but actually weighed 35 pounds. As a result, the toddler received more than twice the amount of medication that was needed, which led to the child losing consciousness and needing to return to the hospital.

We all tend to favor efficiency and seek ways to complete tasks in the most effective manner. The same should be true when it comes to patient medications. Hoffman explained that most of the errors tend to be caused by two things:

  1. a mix-up between pounds and kilograms
  2. the patient’s actual weight being higher or lower than their documented weight

There are many complex problems in medicine that need the orchestrated effort of multiple parties and a multi-faceted approach to solve. Hoffman makes clear, however, that this is not one of them. In her eyes, the solution is simple: “Weigh your patients and do it in kilograms.” This standardized approach would eliminate many significant errors and allow for better patient care.

The Eisen Law Firm and Medication Errors.

The Eisen Law Firm has been handling medical malpractice cases for over four decades. We have an excellent track record of assisting our clients and ensuring that we maximize their compensation for their injuries. We know how to hold doctors and hospitals accountable for their medical errors.

We have seen all different types of medication errors, including ones like Hoffman described.

If you or a loved one have been on the receiving end of a medication dosage error or other type of medication mistake, please contact our experienced Beachwood malpractice lawyers to discuss your options for legal recourse and for obtaining the compensation you deserve. To schedule your free consultation, call 216-287-0900 or contact us online today.