Fatal Medication Error Results in Jail Sentence for Supervising Pharmacist, Inspires New Law

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by | Nov 21, 2011 | Pharmacy Errors

An Ohio pharmacist received a six-month prison sentence after a medication error caused a two year-old child’s death. In February 2006, Emily Jerry went into Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland with her parents. She was there for her last chemotherapy treatment. A pharmacy technician prepared the medication for her treatment, but used the wrong saline dosage. Instead of the recommended one percent solution, the technician used a solution with twenty-three percent saline. When the treatment was administered to Emily, she reportedly began screaming and quickly fell into a coma. She died several days later.

An investigation into Emily’s death found that, although the pharmacy tech claimed to have expressed concerns about the solution she had prepared, the supervising pharmacist, Eric Cropp, signed off on it. Cropp lost his pharmacist license, and prosecutors charged him with involuntary manslaughter in Emily’s death. The pharmacy technician did not face any criminal liability. Evidence presented by the defense suggested that the busy and chaotic environment of the hospital, as well as a rush job on Emily’s medication, contributed to a tragic accident. Cropp received a six-month prison sentence in 2009. Criminal liability for a pharmacists, or any medical professional, is rather rare, so the case resonated in the pharmacist community. With a felony conviction on his record, Cropp will never work as a pharmacist again, but the case has created benefits for patient safety in Ohio.

Ohio legislators introduced a bill in 2007 inspired by this case. At the time of Emily’s death, Ohio did not require any specific educational background or license for pharmacy technicians. While pharmacists bear final responsibility for the technicians they supervise, technicians have a great deal of responsibility for the actual preparation of medications. Supporters of the bill noted the importance of ensuring a minimum level of competence as a means of avoiding future tragedies like Emily Jerry. The bill, known as Emily’s Law, took effect when Ohio governor Ted Strickland signed it in January 2009.

Missouri currently still does not have specific educational standards for pharmacy technicians, but it does require registration with the Board of Pharmacy of anyone working as a pharmacy tech. The requirement for registration, according to Board guidelines, applies to anyone with independent access to drug stocks in a pharmacy. The Board also maintains a publicly-available list of disqualified pharmacy techs, listing identifying information and the date when they may be eligible to work in a pharmacy again.

Kansas also only requires pharmacy technicians to register with the Board of Pharmacy, although it does require pharmacy techs to pass an examination within thirty days of registration. Registered pharmacy technicians must also maintain a certain level of training regarding the scope of their professional duties, and the law places the responsibility for this training on their supervising pharmacists.

People who have suffered injury due to a medication error in a pharmacy or hospital may be entitled to compensation for their damages. For a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Kansas City pharmacy error lawyer, contact Doug Horn at Horn Law today through our website or at (816) 795-7500.

Web Resources:

Missouri Pharmacy Practice Guide (PDF), Missouri Board of Pharmacy

Pharmacy Technician Employment Disqualification List (PDF), Missouri Board of Pharmacy

Technician Registration, Kansas State Board of Pharmacy