Unmanaged pain can cause a host of bodily reactions, up to and including shock, which can sometimes prove fatal. Keeping a patient’s pain under control is an important part of providing medical care. However, physicians also take an oath to do no harm, and one can easily argue that modern pain management can do harm to patients.
Opioid (synthetic opiate) painkillers carry a significant risk of misuse and addiction. Additionally, the risk for interactions with other drugs and alcohol, and the potential for fatal overdose, cannot be ignored.
Giving patients access to adequate pain management resources is important, but so is verifying the severity of the pain and following up carefully when a patient has a prescription for narcotic painkillers. If a physician is careless in their use of addictive and potentially deadly drugs, that may be a form of medical malpractice.
Some people will abuse pain medication or take it inappropriately
There are people who will fake medical conditions or even intentionally injure themselves in order to seek prescription pain medication. Other people will exaggerate the severity of their symptoms in the hope of getting a prescription for highly controlled narcotic painkillers. They may use the pills themselves or intend to sell them on the thriving unregulated market.
A doctor prescribing an opioid or opiate medication to a patient should review their records and try to determine the likelihood of drug-seeking behavior or addiction. While the patient’s situation may necessitate a prescribed pain reliever, it may be possible to use something less powerful.
The physician should also monitor the patient while they receive the prescription and provide them with services to help them ease off of the drug when the time comes. Failing to do so could mean setting a patient up for addiction and then leaving them to their own devices.
Lax prescribing by physicians can feed into the overdose crisis
Many people who wind up addicted to prescription painkillers like fentanyl or who start using heroin become addicted through illegal prescription initially. Doctors prescribing potentially addictive medication have a duty to make sure that they don’t over-prescribe those medications and that they carefully monitor and work with the patient receiving them.
Over-prescribing may be one of many reasons that Ohio has recently seen a noteworthy increase of individuals testing positive for unprescribed opioids and heroin. When a doctor’s lack of care when prescribing medication leads to an overdose, that doctor may have committed medical malpractice and opened the door to claims by the victim or their family.