Does medication malpractice qualify as medical negligence?

Learn more about medication malpractice in Canada, and its practical and legal considerations in filing a case before the court
Does medication malpractice qualify as medical negligence?

Patients rely on medical prescriptions from their doctors, nurses, or pharmacists. However, when consequences happen due to prescription errors or wrongful dispensing of medicines, the law provides remedies for these patients against negligent medical workers or practitioners. 

What constitutes as medical malpractice in Canada? 

Medical malpractice is the general term covering numerous acts or omissions of healthcare workers or medical practitioners which cause injury, even death.  

Medical malpractice happens when medical practitioners: 

  • fail to practice the standard of care that is expected of them 
  • give substandard care or treatment 
  • are negligent in their duties 

Types of medical negligence or malpractice 

Medical negligence or medical malpractice have different examples, such as: 

  • omissions of standard of care 
  • medication and prescription errors 
  • misdiagnosis 
  • delayed diagnosis 
  • failure to diagnose 
  • surgical errors 
  • defective medical devices 
  • birth injury malpractice 

Read about some of the actual cases as costliest examples of medical negligence in Canada in this article.

Can medication malpractice qualify as medical negligence in Canada? 

Medical malpractice comprises different areas, one of which is medication malpractice. It qualifies under medication and prescription errors, which is one of the ways that medical negligence – or medical malpractice in general – may be committed. 

Medication malpractice in Canada 

Medication malpractice is the wrongful prescription or dispensing of medicines or drugs to patients, causing injuries, hospitalizations, long-term disabilities, or even death. 

Watch this video about a fatal case of medication or pharmacy error in Ontario: 

If you or your loved one is a victim of medication malpractice or medical negligence, you may consult a lawyer in your area. If you live in Toronto, for example, you may contact any of the leading lawyers for medical negligence in Ontario as ranked by Lexpert

Liable persons for medication malpractice 

Healthcare professionals or medical practitioners who can be held liable for prescription malpractice or pharmacy errors are doctors, pharmacists, and nurses. 

Learn more about the basics of nursing malpractice under Canadian laws: its elements, its common examples, and the penalties when nurses are found guilty.


There are different ways for doctors to commit medication and prescription errors, such as: 

1. Prescribing or administering:  

  • the wrong dosage (includes over- or under-prescribing of medicines);  
  • the wrong medication; or 
  • unnecessary medications 

2. Diagnosing the medication’s side effects as a new illness 

3. Dispensing multiple medicines that are harmful when taken altogether 

A doctor wrongly prescribes medicines to patients when they fail to: 

  • inquire about the patient’s allergies to medication 
  • review the patient’s medical history, records, or other doctor’s notes 
  • consider other medications that the patient is currently on 
  • inform the patient of the possible side effects of the prescribed medication 
  • adhere to the standards or protocols regarding prescriptions 


Pharmacists or pharmacy technicians are not immune to committing medication malpractice. Some of these errors may include: 

  • providing medication that is different from the doctor’s prescription 
  • advising on the wrong dosage or the wrong medication 
  • failing to warn patients of the medication’s possible side effects 
  • failing to advise patients on drug interactions in case of multiple medications 
  • labelling incorrectly or failing to inform patients on medication’s frequency and other warnings 

A confusing or misleading label of a drug product may also fall under product liability, not under medication and prescription errors. This would also include false or misleading marketing by the drug manufacturer or its advertiser/marketer.  

You may consult a lawyer to help explain these differences and guide you in the right action to take. 

Please see the list of the best product liability lawyers for litigation in Canada here.


Nurses, or even nursing students, may also commit medication errors, just like pharmacists. These errors may include providing the patient with the wrong medication or the wrong dosage, which is different from what has been prescribed by the patient’s doctor.  

Know the laws to determine if can you sue for medical malpractice in Canada in this article.

Elements of medication malpractice in Canada 

The principles of common law or case law in Canada on medical malpractice and negligence will also apply to medication malpractice cases. 

To be successful in their civil claim, the plaintiff (the patient) must prove the following elements when filing a case in court: 

  • duty of care: that a patient-medical worker relationship exists between the plaintiff and the defendant (the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist) 
  • breach: that the defendant has been negligent, or has breached the standard of care, in prescribing, administering, or dispensing the medication to the plaintiff 
  • causation: that the defendant’s acts, omission, or negligence was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries or death 
  • damages: that the plaintiff sustained losses or damages due to the defendant’s acts, omission, or negligence 

Civil liabilities for medication malpractice 

Once determined that there is a medication and prescription error according to the elements mentioned above, the patient may file a civil case for damages before the court. 

Damages or compensation 

In a civil case for negligence or malpractice in general, a plaintiff may ask the following compensation or damages from defendant: 

  • general damages: awarded by the court for the plaintiff’s non-monetary losses, such as emotional or psychological distress, or for pain and suffering; 
  • pecuniary damages: actual expenses or compensation awarded to the plaintiff for financial loss 

Canada’s common law has placed a cap or a limit on the general damages that a plaintiff may ask from the defendant. Currently, this limit is approximately C$455,000. This applies to all cases for tort and damages in Canada, which includes medical negligence and medical malpractice. 

In case of medication or pharmacy errors in Canada, pecuniary damages may include: 

  • actual medical expenses (e.g., treatment and rehabilitation costs) 
  • future medical expenses (e.g., caregiving costs) 
  • lost income and/or future income 
  • travel expenses 
  • any other damages that the patient incurred (or will incur) 

Statute of limitations 

One consideration in suing for medical malpractice or negligence is the time limit for filing a case before the court. This is determined by each province or territory’s statute of limitations. 

In general, plaintiffs are given up to 2 years to file their case. Otherwise, they will be barred from filing the same case after that period. 

What’s the reason behind the statute of limitations? The law ensures that plaintiffs do not sleep on their rights. Would-be defendants are also assured that there is an end to possible litigation that may be filed against them. 

To know more about medication malpractice or negligence, consult with the Lexpert best-ranked Canadian lawyers for medical negligence