Is there a law that results in losing a license for a medication error?

By | 2015-09-10T18:07:12-04:00 September 11th, 2015|0 Comments

Dear Nancy,

I heard there was a law in South Carolina, which is a compact state, that a nurse could lose his or her license for making a medication error. I work in a compact state and don’t want to lose my license. Is this true?



Dear Marianna,

Your concern about a proposed law in South Carolina is well-founded. The legislation, named “Samuel’s Law” (SB 371),  was proposed after the tragic death of a 7-year-old boy whose home health nurse administered 4 millileters of morphine rather than the ordered 0.4 millileters. The nurse apparently misread the order and admitted the error. She was placed on probation for one year by the board of nursing, required to pay a fine and required to complete four educational courses.

The bill currently is in a subcommittee of the state’s Committee on Medical Affairs and no action has been taken on the bill to date. However, its contents are of concern to all practicing nurses because, in its current version, it would require the South Carolina State Board of Nursing to revoke an individual’s nursing license if the nurse acted in a “willful, wanton, or grossly negligent manner by misreading a physician’s order causing the patient to be over-medicated or under-medicated and resulting in the patient’s death.”

Willful, wanton or grossly negligent conduct is defined as an “act or course of action, or inaction, which denotes a lack of reasonable care and a conscious disregard or indifference to the rights, safety, or welfare of others and which does or could result in death.”

The proposed bill raises many issues, including the fact that misreading an order is unintended, not willful, wanton or grossly negligent; that the bill negates the whole concept of a “just culture” deeply imbedded in healthcare today; that the concept of due process — the right to defend oneself against allegations in a complaint — is obliterated; and that the proposed legislation negates a board of nursing’s authority to regulate nursing practice.

Nurses should stay abreast of any developments with this proposed bill in South Carolina and in your own state as well. Contact your legislators and express your opposition to this or other bills that propose the same result.

Also, nurses should be vigilant when administering medications to patients. No one is error-free, but your undivided attention to the nursing responsibility of administering medications is essential.



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About the Author:

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN
Our legal information columnist Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues in nursing and healthcare delivery across the country and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 30 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist. Her posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state.

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