When Bad Handwriting Is Medical Malpractice

In the medical community, doctors are mocked (perhaps unfairly!) for their bad handwriting. It’s funny to watch certain doctors scribble illegible notes during your checkup, but when it comes to prescriptions and medications, a lot relies on your doctor and their penmanship.

What Does That Say?

It’s not just doctors. Errors can occur anywhere in the chain of command, from a pharmacist who copies down the prescription to a nurse who administers the medication. A missing decimal point or a slight misspelling might not seem like that big of a deal. But when medical needs are involved, an error has serious consequences. In fact, mislabeling is sometimes a kind of medical malpractice.

An error in the labeling of a medication or prescription might lead to:

  • a prescription or administration of the wrong medication
  • a prescription or administration of the wrong dosage
  • harmful drug interactions, if a patient mistakenly takes a medication that does not interact well with other medications they are taking
  • the administration of a medication or substance that a patient is allergic to
  • delaying administration of necessary medications
  • failure of recognition of negative side effects
  • overdose

In a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 15% of sampled prescriptions were  illegible, while 35% were poor. While cases of death via illegible prescriptions are rare, it does occur. Thankfully, more and more hospitals and offices are switching to electronic note taking, which removes the chances of human handwriting errors.

Has An Error Occurred?

If a prescription is mislabeled but no harm is done, your claim is not as strong. However, you should still inform your doctor of the error. This will ensure that it does not happen again. If you are injured, or a loved one is killed due to a mislabeling error,  consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney to discuss the details of your case.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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