The Danger with Numbers

Quantities in Chemical Reactions

1363235817_morphine60

You sleep when you are in the arms of Morpheus, the Greek God of sleep and dreams. [5] But what happens when you are in the arms of morphine?

Morphine is an opioid/narcotic, used as pain medication for moderate to severe pain. It acts on the central nervous system to numb pain and induce sleep. [3]

It is a known fact that misuse of the drug can result in severe consequences such as addiction, overdose and death. It can slow breathing and heart rate to the point of stopping. Morphine should never be taken in larger amounts or for longer than prescribed, especially in children and those without a prescription. [2,3] Accurate calculations are vital in health care situations, which is what Asher, a young infant, found out the hard way.

According to this article by CTV News, Asher’s grandmother, Vera Smith, sat down to feed him. Then, to her horror,  the baby began drooling and fell limp. After calling 9-1-1, Asher was rushed to hospital and it was confirmed that he had been given the wrong concentration of morphine – about one hundred times what he was supposed to receive. This miscalculation happened at the Dispensaries Limited pharmacy in south Edmonton. The pharmacy says a pharmacist checked the prescription, an assistant filled it, and the pharmacist checked it again. Rest assured, Asher survived but who knows what other issues might arise later on from the accident?

Mistakes in calculations happen all the time and it is impossible to eliminate them completely; this is the danger with numbers. Great care, however, can be taken to avoid such devastating incidents, such as having several doctors as well as patients, check over prescriptions. In this world, we can never take what someone says for granted. We must all be cautious about who we trust. A medic’s job is to help and save people, but sometimes an error is beyond their control. When you place yourself in the arms of morphine, you’re trusting a powerful and dangerous drug to help you. What is the most effective way to avoid mistakes and who should we blame when they happen?

Bibliography

1. “Prescription error: changes urged after infant takes near-fatal does.” CTV News. 2015. Web. April 14, 2015. <http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/prescription-error-changes-urged-after-infant-takes-near-fatal-dose-1.2241801&gt;

2. “Morphine.” Drugs.com. 2014. Web. April 14 2015. <http://www.drugs.com/morphine.html&gt;

3. “Morphine (oral route): Description and Brand Names.” Mayo Clinic.org. 2015. Web. April 15, 2015. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/morphine-oral-route/description/drg-20074216&gt;

4. “Morphine.” English Montreal School Board. 2004. Web. April 15, 2015. <http://www.emsb.qc.ca/laurenhill/science/morphine.html&gt;

5. “Morpheus, the God of Dreams.” Greek Myths – Greek Mythology.com. 2015. Web. April 15. <http://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com/morpheus-the-god-of-dreams/&gt;

Image Credit

<http://s3.amazonaws.com/rapgenius/1363235817_morphine60.jpg&gt;

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kate Reeve
    Apr 30, 2015 @ 19:12:03

    Hey Erin! In my opinion, the most effective way to avoid mistakes is through careful reading of all labels and informing yourself on the risks of whatever you or your child may be ingesting/using. When mistakes happen, it can be easy to blame anyone but ourselves. It’s important, however, to take responsibility for our own actions and realize when we are responsible. Otherwise, how could we ever learn?

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    • Erin
      May 15, 2015 @ 00:14:57

      Hi Kate,
      I entirely agree that we have to think about our own actions. Even if a mistake is not your fault, you’ll still pay the consequences. You don’t have to be cynical towards others but it is always safe practice to know what you’re getting into. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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  2. Charlotte Jory
    May 14, 2015 @ 23:25:39

    Hi Erin! I do agree with Kate’s comment above, but I also think we should be able to trust medical officials and doctors and eventually blame them if we end up with an incorrect prescription (how would we even be able to tell if it is correct or not?). After all, many people do not have years and years of education on prescription drugs under their belt. In Asher’s case, it seems someone is not confessing their mistake – 100 times the suggested dose is most definitely not just an oversight. I think a solution to this problem might be to have many pharmacists and even a machine (if possible) check prescriptions before they are given to patients. I also think that these pharmacists and doctors working with dangerous drugs such as morphine should have to renew their licenses frequently and should be randomly evaluated to be sure that they are doing their job’s correctly every single time they fill a prescription. I have a friend who was training to be a pharmacist’s assistant, and she has told me that it was an incredibly stressful job – as it should be. Every day these people are trusted with the lives of sick individuals. Avoiding mistakes would be much easier if many people worked together to double check their work.

    – Charlotte Jory

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    • Erin
      May 15, 2015 @ 00:25:44

      Hi Charlotte,
      I agree; if we’re sceptical about everyone, we’ll never get anywhere. I think that having people renew their licenses is a good idea, as well as randomly testing doctors. It can’t catch all errors (but then again, what can?) but I definitely think it’d help. The issue could due to young or inexperienced doctors, but also to those who have grown too comfortable. For example, I had an x-ray done to check my spine for mild scoliosis. I went to the physiotherapist, and it turns out that the doctor hasn’t used a ruler and estimated the curve of my spine. Seems like a small error but it made a huge difference!

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  3. Blanche, Liam
    Jun 16, 2015 @ 03:16:21

    I don’t mean to ruin this train of thought, but consider too the use of morphine in adults and its great potential for abuse. Opioids in general have a horrible habit of causing severe addiction withdrawal from some of which can cause death, and in some cases where it doesn’t it can cause suicidal thoughts which sometimes lead to suicide. One of our greatest weapons against opioid addiction are these very specific serotonin agonists such as DMT and psilocybin which are currently illicit, but new hope is upon us as ibogaine becomes more popular to cure addiction. They claim it isn’t a psychedelic to gain credibility but it is an agonist of the 5-HT2A receptor so technically it is. Alas, I seem to have forgotten my point on a bend in the path long since past. Ibogaine therapy has an incredible success rate but due to the nature of opiate withdrawal it can sometimes result in death. DMT is also a great one, the king of France’s sister quit morphine with it. Let us pray that they don’t outlaw ibogaine under the analogue bill. Damn the analogue bill. Damn it.

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