Prescription drugs can be dangerous and lead to overdose and death. Have you been prescribed any of these drugs:
- Duragesic; or
If you or a loved one has suffered complications or the effects of addiction because of prescribed opioids like the ones listed above, you may be able to recover money damages for the injuries caused by the medications and the potential malpractice of the physician(s) who prescribed them. You will need the help of experienced personal injury and products liability attorneys like those at the Roger Ghai Law Offices. In this article we focus on some of the legal issues with medical malpractice and prescribed opioids.
General Legal Principles
In general, medical malpractice in Georgia follows the standard legal principles of negligence. That is, a person injured must prove that the doctor — or nurse or hospital, etc. — was negligent and that this negligence led to or caused injury. Medical “negligence” is generally defined as the failure of the healing arts practitioner to conform to the applicable standard of care. One must say “applicable standard of care” because so much of medical science is specialized. Thus, there is a standard of care for doctors that specialize in heart issues, which is different from the standards of those that specialize in cancer treatments, etc. In general, whether a doctor has satisfied the applicable standard of care is a fact question that involves the typical standard of care for those types of doctors in the general geographic area. The law does not apply the standards of, say, China to a doctor here in Georgia. Note also that the standard of care changes from time to time. Thus, the standard that applies to a given legal case is the one that was in effect at the time of the medical decision.
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Opioid Prescribing Standards of Care
The foregoing general principles apply with equal force to opioid prescriptions. There are standards for how and when opioids are prescribed and these have been tightened recently as a result of the opioid epidemic. The US Centers for Disease Control, for example, has issued guidelines for prescribing opioids. See here.
In general, there are five issues: (1) when to first prescribe, (2) which opioids, (3) duration, (4) termination and (5) addiction risk assessments. In general, the idea is to not prescribe opioids if other painkillers will work, to prescribe the least addictive versions, to prescribe in only small doses, to terminate usage quickly, and to watch carefully for signs of addiction. In addition to these specific guidelines for opioid prescribing, there are more general guidelines with respect to risk warnings that physicians must give to their patients.
As noted, medical malpractice cases are fact-intensive. If you think you have suffered — or a loved one has suffered — because of opioid mis-prescription or over-prescription, some of the fact questions to consider are these:
- What warnings were provided by your doctor? What was said with respect to risks of addiction? Were the warnings written or verbal?
- Have you or your loved one ever had addiction problems in the past?
- Is there family history of addiction propensities?
- Which opioid was prescribed? Were non-opioids tried first?
- How many doses were prescribed?
- How many refills were allowed?
- Were doctor visits required for the refills? Among the signs of addiction is a quick request for refills, which indicates overuse of the dosages prescribed
- What training did the doctor receive?
- Does the health care facility have protocols and policies in place with respect to opioid prescribing?
- Were any opioids prescribed via telemedicine?
- Did your doctor note any signs of addiction? What treatments/medications were prescribed to combat the addiction?
- Did your doctor fail to diagnose addiction?
The general problem with opioids is that they are highly, highly, addictive. As such, even a few doses may create the physical and psychological need for more and more doses. Because of the highly addictive nature of opioids, when prescribing opioids, physicians must take reasonable care to ameliorate these risks and treat the signs of addiction if they arise.
Further, all the consequences of any addition are potentially a result of the mis-prescription and/or over-prescription. Such include the foreseeable addition and overdose of illegal opioids like heroin. Synthetic opioids act in the body exactly like the natural versions like heroin. Further complicating the problem is that the street cost of heroin is actually less than the prescription cost of the synthetic versions. This has led some patients to sell their prescription pills which allows them to buy a larger quantity of heroin. Thus, it is foreseeable prescribing opioids can lead to heroin use and overdose — and there is plenty of real-world data to show this fact. Maybe a decade ago, the catastrophic effect of prescribing opioids was unknown. But the that is not the case anymore. Now, health care providers and the pharmaceutical companies are fully aware of the consequences of becoming addicted to these synthetic opioid compounds. There is a growing consensus that over-prescribing opioids is medical malpractice.
Moreover, there is no question that there is a crisis with respect to opioid addiction and deaths in the US. See here. In 2016, there were more than 63,000 deaths in the US from opioid-related overdoses and the number rose to more than 72,000 in 2017. See the report here from the National Drug Abuse Institute. It is estimated that, of these deaths, between one-quarter and one-third flow from prescription opioids.
Contact the Roger Ghai Law Offices
If you think you might be a victim of medical malpractice because opioid mis-prescription or over-prescription, call the experienced medical malpractice and personal injury attorneys at the Roger Ghai Law Offices. Call now because there are short deadlines that must be met (two years). We here at the Roger Ghai Law Offices have years of experience recovering compensation on behalf of clients who have been injured by doctor and hospital malpractice and dangerous medications. We provide legal services for the residents of Cobb County including the communities of Kennesaw, Acworth, Marietta, and the surrounding areas. Click here to schedule your consultation.