Leeseberg & Valentine

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The opioid epidemic and medical malpractice claims

Most people, whether here in Ohio or elsewhere, know about the opioid epidemic gripping the country. Reportedly, one of the primary reasons for the high number of addictions and overdoses was the fact that doctors overprescribed the medications. Pharmaceutical companies told everyone they were safe, but some doctors had to know the truth -- opioids are highly addictive.

You may go to a doctor for treatment of an injury or a surgical procedure and leave with a prescription for an opioid for the pain. In some cases, it wouldn't take long for addiction to take hold. Even if it took others more time, the results were the same. The question then becomes whether doctors could have done more to protect their patients. This is a question still asked today.

What should doctors do?

Even doctors aren't sure how to deal with their complicity in the epidemic. Setting new rules for dispensing these types of medications could help. If doctors all followed the same rules, then the number of people affected by this type of addiction could go down. Perhaps if doctors let patients know up front what their practices are when it comes to writing opioid prescriptions, it would help curb people from shopping for a doctor to obtain these medications.

In addition, if your doctor felt it necessary to prescribe such an addictive drug to you in order to manage your pain, then you should remain under observation for the duration of the treatment course. You may find a limit to the amount of time you can take these drugs, and they cannot be above a certain dosage. In addition, your doctor could engage in the following practices:

  • Carefully document and address your request for more medication
  • Only prescribe opioids in conjunction with a face-to-face visit
  • Avoid providing prescriptions after office hours
  • Include questions regarding drug addiction, comorbid psychiatric conditions and drug abuse during the evaluation process
  • Carefully wean you off the drugs if you have been on them for a long time

By following these practices and others, the hope is that you would avoid addiction or abuse. These are not necessarily the current practices of every doctor. However, doctors do owe you a duty when it comes to all aspects of your care, and that includes the medications they prescribe. Many doctors look for alternatives to opioids now, but they do still prescribe them when they believe them necessary.

If you believe that your doctor failed to follow up on your condition after prescribing you opioids, and you became addicted, you may have legal recourse. In order to know for sure, you may want to find out what your rights are and learn about the potential legal options you may have.

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