When Are Doctors Responsible for an Opioid Overdose?
The opioid epidemic has had a significant impact on people throughout the
United States, and many blame doctors for the growing problem. Back in
the 1990’s, when big pharmaceutical companies began creating and
selling opioids in large volumes, doctors began prescribing painkillers
at an alarming rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, prescriptions for opioids quadrupled between 1999 and 2014,
while Americans reported pain at a steady, stagnant rate. Doctors are
responsible for showing good judgment when caring for their patients,
which includes using discretion when prescribing opioids. If you or someone
you loved was overprescribed opioids, and that prescription lead to a
drug addiction or overdose, the prescribing doctor may be liable.
About Medical Malpractice & Opioids
Doctors and other healthcare professionals know how dangerous opioids can
be. When used in moderation and with patients who show no signs of addiction,
they can be helpful, but otherwise, they can create a serious problem.
Medical professionals with the authority to prescribe medicines are required
to show competent care for their patients. Back in the 1990’s, when
the opioid epidemic first began, some pharmaceutical companies offered
incentives to doctors who prescribed their opioids to patients. Unfortunately,
there is always the chance that such behaviors are still encouraged.
Doctors can be held responsible for negligence for the following actions:
- Overprescribing painkillers
- Prescribing the wrong medication
- Failure to notice or respond to a patient’s drug addiction
- Providing a patient with opioids when he or she has previously suffered
a drug addiction
Most doctors do intend to help their patients and do not mean to cause
them harm. However, when a doctor fails to notice signs of addiction in
a patient, refills a prescription too frequently, or provides painkillers
when they are unnecessary, the doctor could be held liable for the resulting
consequences. These consequences could include an addiction to opioids
or an overdose. In many cases, opioid dependency could lead to an illegal
opioid addiction to drugs like heroin.
If you believe a doctor was responsible for your addiction, overdose, or
that of your loved one, you must prove a few essential things before the
court. First, in order for a doctor to be held responsible for the well-being
of their patient, they must first have an established doctor-patient relationship
with the patient. Next, it must be proved that a breach of conduct occurred.
If, for example, the doctor did not show the same care that another competent
doctor of his or her same skill level would have, then that doctor could
be found liable. This mistake must also have caused direct harm to the patient.
Prescribing painkillers is never an exact science, and it can be difficult
to gauge appropriate dosages or who might be unfit to take medications.
However, as medical professionals, doctors with the authority to prescribe
pain medications should know what signs to look for in a potential addict
and are required to show care when prescribing medications. Overprescribing
medications can be extremely dangerous for the recipient, and in some
cases, painkillers are simply not necessary. In some situations, doctors
should first look to alternate pain management therapies and opioid alternatives.
Do you think you have a medical malpractice case? Contact Simeone & Miller, LLP
for help with your opioid addiction or overdose case.