An attorney assessing an opioid overdose malpractice case will look at whether the doctor was negligent in prescribing, administering, or managing the patient’s opioid medication. If the doctor’s negligence caused or contributed to the patient’s overdose and related damages, then a malpractice case may exist.
How Medical Malpractice May Contribute to Opioid Overdose
An attorney from Newsome | Melton will look at the doctor’s actions when writing the prescription, administering the drugs, or managing the patient’s therapy.
Doctor Should Not Have Prescribed or Administered Opioids
A doctor generally should avoid prescribing opioid medication to a patient with a history of opioid abuse or dependence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for opioid prescriptions state that doctors should:
- Evaluate patient risks before prescribing opioid therapy
- Review the patient’s history of controlled substance prescriptions
- Use urine drug testing to assess for prescription and illicit drugs
Writing a prescription for opioids (or administering opioid therapy) to a patient with a history of opioid-related problems may be medical negligence. Further, failure to perform due diligence before prescribing for opioid therapy may be negligence as well.
Doctor Poorly Managed the Patient’s Opioid Therapy
Doctors should also carefully manage their patients’ opioid therapies. The CDC guidelines for prescribing opioids say that doctors should:
- Prescribe the lowest effective dose and quantity possible
- Create a treatment plan and discuss it with the patient
- Evaluate the benefits and harms of opioid therapy for the patient within four weeks of beginning therapy
- Choose alternatives to opioid therapy when possible
- Regularly conduct urine drug testing
- Regularly monitor the patient’s controlled substance prescriptions
A doctor who neglects to manage and monitor the patient’s therapy may also be negligent and potentially liable for a related opioid overdose.
Four Elements of Liability for Medical Malpractice
Any medical malpractice case must establish four things to hold the defendant liable for a patient’s injuries or condition:
Duty of Care
All doctors owe their patients a duty of care. When prescribing, administering, or managing opioids, doctors should perform due diligence to minimize risk to the patient.
A doctor who fails to follow the standard of care when prescribing, administering, or managing a patient’s opioid therapy is negligent. We can work with medical experts who can testify about whether the doctor followed the standard of care when prescribing, administering, or managing the patient’s opioid therapy.
The case must also establish that the doctor’s negligence caused or contributed to the patient’s opioid overdose. For example, a medical malpractice case may argue that the doctor’s negligent prescription of opioid therapy without checking for a history of opioid abuse or dependence contributed to the patient’s overdose.
Finally, a medical malpractice case must establish that the plaintiff suffered damages because of the overdose. For example:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
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