Top 10 Medication Errors – Mistaken Patient Identity

The first article in this series discussed drug errors that can occur when two medications have similar names. Whether the names sound close to one another or have similar spellings, this kind of medicine mix-up can have deadly results.

Unfortunately, this confusion is not limited to medicines that have similar names. It can also happen when a doctor, hospital employee, or pharmacist confuses two different patients. A patient could potentially receive medication meant for someone else with a similar-sounding name or the same name but an alternate spelling.

Pharmacists may confuse similar-sounding first names details a story of a pharmacy’s medicine mistake involving patient identity. In 2011, a pregnant Mareena Silva was prescribed an antibiotic to treat an infection. When she picked up her medication, she received another person’s medicine from the pharmacist.

Rather than the antibiotic she was supposed to take, Mareena was given methotrexate, a drug that inhibits cell growth. Methotrexate is used to treat certain cancers and other conditions but absolutely should not be given to pregnant women, as it can cause birth defects or miscarriage.

An investigation uncovered the pharmacist made a mistake; Mareena Silva was given Maria Silva’s prescription. There were no follow-up reports on how Mareena or her baby fared after the drug mistake.

Common last names can further complicate prescription distribution

People with common last names are more at risk of this kind of medication error. The odds are that one pharmacy will have multiple prescriptions filed under names like Smith or Hernandez. Because confusing two patients is a fairly common hospital medicine mistake as well as a frequent pharmacy drug error, staff members are often trained to ask for more information than just a name.

For example, pharmacy customers may be asked to verify their addresses or dates of birth when filling and picking up a prescription. In hospitals, staff members may double-check the information on a patient’s identification bracelet to avoid giving the wrong medicine to the wrong patient.

Even with these practices in place, mistakes can still happen. When possible, patients should take precautions themselves to ensure they have received the correct medication as prescribed by their doctor.

Preventing mistaken identity at the pharmacy or hospital

There are some things you can do to protect yourself against this kind of medication mistake. First, slow down. If you are in a hurry when picking up your medication, you are less likely to catch a pharmacy’s drug error.

Double-check that the name on the medication is yours while the pharmacist is present. If you have a common name, you may also want to make sure that what you received matches the medication you discussed with your doctor. If you have any concerns, do not hesitate to bring them up to the pharmacist; they should be happy to verify that you have the right prescription.

In a hospital situation, ask staff members questions about the medicine you are receiving. Make sure employees verify that the information on the medicine and the information on your hospital band match.

When mistaken patient identity leads to injuries

If you find that a medical professional mixed up your or your loved one’s name when dispensing medication, you can seek compensation for the damages that resulted. This kind of mistake can be life-threatening, and you may be left facing lasting health complications, financial troubles, and even the death of a family member.

Allow our team to express our deepest sympathy for what you have experienced and offer our support. You may be able to recover damages from the liable party in a medical malpractice or wrongful death case, and we would be honored to help.

How Distasio Law Firm can help if you suffered from a medication error

Our firm takes on personal injury cases of all kinds, including those related to medication errors. When you become a client, we can:

  • Review medical records regarding the prescription you or your loved one was supposed to receive
  • Compile evidence to show how the mistake occurred and who is liable
  • Evaluate the impact the mistake had on your life with the help of testimony from medical specialists

Call our attorneys today

These are just some of the services we offer when advocating for our clients. We can begin discussing your case today during a free case assessment. Call now at (813) 259-0022.


Our main office is here in Downtown Tampa, Florida in the Channelside neighborhood. Office in Wesley Chapel and Largo are available by appointment only.

Distasio Law Firm