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Malpractice claims related to opioid addiction are on the rise

Modern pain relief is arguably the most critical of all the medical advances our society has made. The ability to operate on those with injuries or to provide reliable trauma care depends entirely on the ability of doctors to control the pain level of their patients.

Uncontrolled pain can cause a spike in blood pressure or even shock, a potentially deadly medical condition. Decades ago, doctors had only a handful of options for pain relief, including the narcotic painkillers we know as morphine and codeine. In recent years, the rise in synthetic opioids has made it easier and cheaper than ever to manage severe, chronic or acute pain.

The downside of better pain control

Unfortunately, the rise of improved pain relief options has also led to an increase in addiction and overdoses related to opioid painkillers. Many people who struggle with prescription drug addiction or even heroin addiction started out on a pain relief medication recommended by their doctor.

In the event that negligent prescription practices or lax oversight played a role in someone's addiction or overdose death, that person or their surviving family members may be able to bring a medical malpractice claim against the prescribing doctor.

Doctors often don't think about how addictive painkillers can be

It would be nice if the reason that doctors prescribed so many pain medications to their patients was simply compassion for the suffering of those individuals. However, for many doctors, painkiller prescriptions are a quick and easy way to deal with complex problems that cause pain in a patient. Instead of finding the underlying cause, they choose to treat the symptom.

Other times, doctors do not take adequate steps to verify that their patients actually need prescription pain medication. A doctor should carefully review the medical history of the patient to make sure that this is not simply a drug-seeking effort. They should also consider less dangerous and addictive painkillers, such as Tylenol 3, before jumping straight to drugs like oxycodone or fentanyl.

The number of pills they prescribe and the number of refills should correlate to the patient's size, medical condition and tolerance for the drugs. Furthermore, the doctor should carefully follow up with the patient and ensure that they know how to secure their medication and dispose of it if they no longer need it. Doctors who do not take all of these steps my unnecessarily endanger their patients or push someone down a path of addiction that could have otherwise been avoided.

Mistakes with medications are a common source of malpractice claims

Just under one in 10 medical malpractice claims from 2012 to 2016 related to medication errors. Among those claims, inappropriate prescription of an opioid or opiate resulting in addiction or death is a common claim.

Family members or those struggling with addiction who want to bring a claim against the prescribing doctor for the irresponsible use of opioids will not take on a battle no one else has fought but will, rather, be part of a trend for holding doctors accountable for their medication mistakes.

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