Pharmacy Students Participate in Mock Trial Based on Real Error

Considering that a pharmacist's mistake may cost a patient's life, one class at Auburn University's Harrison School of Pharmacy prepares pharmacy students for the gravity of their actions.

Considering that a pharmacist’s mistake may cost a patient’s life, one class at Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy prepares pharmacy students for the gravity of their actions.

The Foundations of Pharmacy course for incoming students has included a mock trial for the past 5 years. On August 14, 2015, the students watched their professors play out a fictionalized version of a real case from 2006, Opelika-Auburn News reported.

The case involved an Ohio pharmacist found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after a 2-year-old girl named Emily Jerry died during her last scheduled chemotherapy session because she had an improperly diluted intravenous (IV) bag prepared by a pharmacy technician. The solution was 23% salt, instead of the <1% it was supposed to contain.

Emily’s father Christopher Jerry told Pharmacy Times he learned that the hospital pharmacy was short-staffed, there were technical problems with the pharmacy computer, and there was a backlog of physician orders on the day Emily received the IV bag.

During the mock trial, faculty provided testimony and the pharmacy students were asked questions via a cell phone app on how they would judge the case.

“All of you will begin to actually have real experiences within the next couple of weeks, so it is indeed, I think, fitting that you see a real-life case, actually, that did occur [and] what the implications can be,” Dean Lee Evans told the class, according to Opelika-Auburn News. “…Begin imagining yourselves in the chair as the defendant in the case, a pharmacist who has practiced for some time [and who] made an error. See what happens to you inside, in terms of what you think about your future as a practitioner.”

In real life, pharmacist Grace Finnamore was found criminally negligent, because she had inspected and approved the solution made by the technician. She also lost her pharmacy license.

Pharmacy students in the Foundations class also judged Finnamore to be responsible for Emily’s death, Opelika-Auburn News reported.

“In this particular case, you’re going to see how serious, how important, and how deadly it can be,” said County District Attorney Robbie Treese, who acted as prosecutor in the mock trial, according to Opelika-Auburn News. “…Tremendous responsibility rests upon your shoulders, and when it went bad, what do you do when you have a professional responsibility?”