AUBURN UNIVERSITY – The new class of students in Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy will get a lesson in professional responsibility on Friday, Aug. 10, when attorneys, faculty and staff present a criminal case based on a factual incident involving the death of a young child from a pharmacist’s mistake.
The Harrison School of Pharmacy hosts a mock trial at the conclusion of its weeklong Foundations of Pharmacy orientation course, which introduces first-year students to the Doctor of Pharmacy program and professional responsibility of pharmacists.
In the past, mock trial has been based on a civil case involving medication errors, but the school has opted to base this year’s trial on a criminal case where an Ohio pharmacist was charged with reckless homicide in 2006 following the death of a two-year-old patient.
“Mock trial is the best way to drive home the idea of professional responsibility,” said Lee Evans, dean of Auburn’s Harrison School of Pharmacy. “It’s a lesson our student pharmacists need to practice now. They are a trusted medical professional from this point on.”
For Friday’s trial, pharmacy faculty and staff will portray jurors, witnesses, the pharmacist and the victim’s family. Lee County District Attorney Robbie Treese will serve as the prosecuting attorney, while Jim Ward, attorney for the Alabama State Board of Pharmacy, will serve as defense counsel.
Presiding over the proceedings will be the honorable Jim McLaughlin, municipal judge for the City of Auburn.
“There is a standard of conduct that you are held up to in your profession,” McLaughlin said.
In 2006, a pharmacist was indicted by an Ohio grand jury following the death of a two-year-old patient who received an improperly mixed chemotherapy solution. A pharmacy technician made the solution with the incorrect amount of sodium chloride, but the pharmacist approved it without recognizing the lethal error.
The pharmacist and the case never went to trial. He agreed to a plea of no contest to the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to serve six months in a county jail, six months of home detention, three years of probation, 400 hours of community service and pay fines and court costs. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy also revoked his license to practice.
The case did, however, prompt the Ohio legislature to enact a law requiring standards for pharmacy technicians.
Unlike a real court case, the jury in Friday’s mock trial will deliberate in open court.
“The deliberations are the most important part,” Evans said. “We want the jury to openly discuss how the principles of professional responsibility were violated by the defendant in order for the first-year students to understand the reasoning behind the jury’s verdict.”
The trial will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the tiered auditorium of the Walker Building on campus.
On Saturday, Aug. 11, at 10 a.m., the first-year students will participate in a White Coat Ceremony, where they are officially welcomed into the school at the Auburn City Schools Performing Arts Center at Auburn High School. Classes begin Thursday, Aug. 16.
(Written by Amy Weaver)