Anytime you go to the doctor or seek any form of medical care, you expect to be treated with dignity and respect. Unfortunately, the reality is that medical malpractice can happen to anyone at the hands of a healthcare professional. When it comes to opioid distribution, the consequences of medical malpractice are serious and can be life-threatening.
Pain management doctors are obligated to provide all patients with responsible care and treatment plans, including when they prescribe medication. If a doctor or medical professional fails to treat patients responsibly and writes them a prescription without meeting the duty of care for their specialty, they may be found liable for injuries that result from their actions.
In order to write a prescription for a class of drugs like opioids, pain management doctors must exhaust alternative options (i.e., non-narcotic pain medications) before they can conclude that opioids are the right form of treatment for each patient. They must also inform patients of all the risks posed by the medication while also being vigilant for tell-tale signs of addictive behavior or drug abuse.
What Are Opioids and Why Are They Dangerous?
Opioids are a class of pain-relieving drugs that work by interacting with opioid receptors found in the body. Some opioids (i.e., morphine) can be derived from a poppy plant or developed in a lab (i.e., fentanyl). When an opioid travels through a patient’s bloodstream, it attaches to the opioid receptors in the brain and suppresses the body’s perception of pain while increasing the sensation of pleasure.
Commonly prescribed medications that are considered opioids include:
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)
Opioids are dangerous because they reduce the feeling of pain while increasing sensations of happiness and pleasure — making it easy for patients to develop an addiction. Although they are effective at relieving pain, opioids can have fatal consequences due to improper dosing.
Smaller doses can make a patient lethargic and sleepy while higher doses can lower their heart rate and slow their breathing. It is the latter that can often lead to an overdose or death. If you or someone you love has suffered injuries as a result of an opioid addiction, a medical malpractice attorney can help you pursue damages.
What Are Examples of Medical Negligence When Prescribing Opioids?
Doctors must weigh all possible risks and outcomes when prescribing narcotics to their patients. Unfortunately, not every pain management doctor will take the necessary precautions or even suggest alternatives — causing their patients to become tolerant to, dependent on or addicted to a prescribed opioid even after treatment has concluded.
There is a chance that a negligent doctor can be found guilty of medical malpractice if the following circumstances are met:
- They neglect to collect and analyze a patient’s medical history. Patients with a known past of addiction, overdose or drug abuse are often not considered good candidates for opioids. If a doctor fails to discuss a patient’s medical history or ignores a past drug addiction, they may be found negligent.
- They prescribe unnecessary medication(s). With the amount of pain relievers out there, a doctor has a variety of non-narcotic medications at their disposal to prescribe to a patient. If a doctor fails to disclose an alternative that would work just as well at treating pain as an opioid, or a treatment method that may treat the underlying condition and negate the need for additional pain management, they may not be acting in the patient’s best interest.
- They prescribe a medication that exceeds the necessary amount. When a doctor writes a prescription for an opioid, they should only be prescribing what is necessary for treatment. If a pain management doctor overprescribes a patient’s medication(s), they may be found negligent for resulting injuries or deaths.
Do You Have a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit? Schedule a Consultation with a Medical Malpractice Attorney in Minneapolis to Find Out
Whether you have suffered injuries due to a doctor’s negligence or you lost a loved one to an opioid overdose, a medical malpractice attorney can help you determine if you have a case and help you with next steps.
The Minnesota Lawyer Referral and Information Service (MNLRIS) helps connect people with experienced lawyers in Minnesota to assist with various legal matters, including medical malpractice. For more information, call (612) 752-6699.