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Medicine shortage is no excuse for poor care

Georgia and the rest of the nation are experiencing serious drug shortages. In fact, the federal government has just approved emergency imports of generic versions of certain cancer drugs because domestic supplies are running out. In addition, hospitals and emergency response personnel all over the country are running out of anti-anxiety and anti-seizure drugs, also known as benzodiazepines.

Medicine shortages can cause particular difficulties in proving that medical personnel failed to provide appropriate treatment and are guilty of negligence. If medical personnel cannot access benzodiazepines due to circumstances beyond their control, then they are not likely liable for any resulting harm

However, worries about running out of medication may tempt doctors and emergency responders to administer drugs more sparingly than usual, providing them in only the most extreme situations. But if medical personnel do have medications on hand and choose not to use them, then they may be liable for medical malpractice.

There is a strong argument that patients' immediate needs should take precedence over any hypothetical future needs. Fear of running out of a medication in the future is likely not an appropriate excuse for failing to properly administer a drug. Failure to properly treat a patient is often grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

As long as medical personnel possess the tools to meet the standards of care, they should do so. Any person that is harmed as a result of a doctor, nurse, or other medical personnel failing to reasonably implement all means at their disposal has the right to seek damages for negligence.

Source: WAFF, "Shortage of benzodiazepines worries emergency crews in Russellville," Marie Waxel, Feb. 20, 2012

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