Americans have a long history of having utmost faith in doctors, believing them to be almost godlike. When a doctor prescribes medication, most people blindly trust the doctor knows what he or she is doing, and they take the medication.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency in conjunction with the Opioid Epidemic currently going on in America. In the last decade of the 20th century, pharmaceutical companies wined and dined doctors, convincing them there was little chance of addiction to their opioid pain relievers. As a result, doctors began prescribing them more and more.
Many patients were given these drugs to alleviate their pain, but addiction was the result. When the medical community realized what was happening, they dramatically changed how they used and prescribed these drugs.
Unfortunately, this led many who were addicted to seek out illicit opioids such as heroin or illegally buying others' pain medications, bringing the country to the current epidemic. Can the doctor be sued for medical malpractice if a patient finds themselves in this situation? Here is what you need to know.
What Constitutes Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice always boils down to negligence. It may be on the part of a doctor, other medical practitioner, a health care facility, or a combination of any of them. The failure to act in accordance with the standard protocols of their practice may be overt action or passive inaction.
How Is Negligence Proven?
In order to ascertain if negligence has indeed occurred, a medical malpractice attorney would need to first get all your medical records. They would also likely need to consult medical experts unless they have a medical degree in addition to their law degree. In the case of prescription drug addiction, a thorough examination will need to be made of your health history and a timeline created to determine how and when the addiction arose and who should be held liable.
How Is Liability Determined?
Just because a doctor prescribed a drug that had the potential for addiction and a patient became addicted doesn't mean the doctor is to blame. However, if that doctor over-prescribed the medication or prescribed the medication to someone they shouldn't have, they could be found liable.
For example, if a patient has surgery and is given prescription opioids to deal with pain for a couple of weeks thereafter, this would be within following protocol. If they continue prescribing opioids for months or even years after because the patient still has pain, they should have known addiction would result. Instead, the patient should have been sent to a pain management clinic.
Another example is prescribing opioids to a known addict. If a patient's medical records indicate they have had previous issues or were once an illicit drug addict, they should have never been prescribe opioids to begin with.
Because medical malpractice for prescription medication addiction is multi-faceted, it is best to consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney to discuss your case and the viability of a lawsuit. Contact a firm, like Shaevitz Shaevitz & Kotzamanis, for more help.