Prescription medications are designed for patients with a need. Whether it is to treat an infection, help alleviate pain, or even clear up acne, these medications have intended uses as well as appropriate timeframes for how long they can be safely used. Prescriptions must be written, filled, and even administered with care; if the patient suffers harm, that patient has the right to file a lawsuit. But, what if the patient did not suffer direct harm; instead, he or she suffered from an addiction or complication due to a physician’s over-prescribing. Is this something that a patient could seek compensation for under the law?
One of the most common instances is where a patient becomes addicted to painkillers due to a physician’s generous prescribing methods. Often, the physician will continue to prescribe pain reduction medications long past the point when they should – leading to the patient becoming addicted.
It was not until recently that overprescribing became an issue in American courts. In fact, it wasn’t until a West Virginia Supreme Court in 2015 issued a landmark ruling, which allowed doctors to be held legally accountable for over-prescribing pain medications and causing addiction to those medications. Patients could also sue pharmacies for negligently prescribing opioid painkillers and enabling their addiction as part of this ruling.
How Common is Opioid Addiction?
Most people who are prescribed a painkiller will not experience any addiction to that pain killer. That is because they are prescribed for a limited amount of time, and then they are able to quit taking their pills the moment when they no longer feel pain. For some, narcotic pain medications are not as easy to stop taking – even when the patient is no longer in pain. That is because opioid pain medications carry natural narcotics, like morphine and codeine – two highly addictive substances that can actually alter the chemistry of the brain, making a person highly dependant on them.
When is Over-Prescribing an Issue of Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice requires the physician’s action or inaction to be below the standard of care expected for the industry. Therefore, you would need to show that the physician’s actions led to your injury (or addiction). The court defines medical negligence as a health care provider’s failure to provide the appropriate skill and degree of care, while taking care of a patient. This degree of care is determined by measuring how other physicians in a similar specialty would have handled the same case. If other physicians would have acted differently, the physician in question would be considered negligent.
In order to determine if your addiction to pain medications was medical malpractice, you would need to establish the doctor’s negligence – such as: The doctor knew that you were addicted, or failed to suggest pain management or other treatments instead of just prescribing opioid pain medications.
When you hire an attorney, your attorney will need to gather evidence which will establish the physician’s negligence. This evidence can include:
- Your medical history
- Your medical diagnosis
- Your pain complaints
- The doctor’s medical findings
- The doctor’s experience in treating your type of pain or condition
- What medical textbooks, as well as other professionals, state is the appropriate course of treatment for your condition
Speak with a Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you feel that your physician has been over-prescribing and you have suffered a serious injury or you have become addicted to your medication, contact Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC right away. We can help you explore your options and determine if your physician was at-fault for your condition. Schedule a consultation now by calling us or fill out our online contact form with your questions.