How Medical Malpractice is Exacerbating Idaho’s Opioid Crisis
In recent years, the opioid epidemic has become a major public health emergency in the United States. Drugged driving, overdoses and other dangerous behaviors kill thousands of Americans annually.
While there are many different fronts on which to address this problem, the most direct is to stop drugs at the source. For many opioid users, this begins with a legal prescription.
Doctors have both an ethical obligation and a legal duty of care which may prohibit them from prescribing opioids to a patient who displays signs and symptoms of addiction. Other circumstances may also make it improper to prescribe opioids. A doctor who ignores this duty to abide by the applicable standard of care may be liable for medical malpractice. Patients, or in some cases surviving family members, may be entitled to compensation as a result. Consult with an Idaho medical malpractice attorney to learn more about your legal rights in cases of improper opioid prescription.
The Challenge of Morally Responsible Prescribing
The opioid epidemic has presented a new and complicated challenge for healthcare practitioners.
How and when can they responsibly prescribe opioids in a culture where opioids are so heavily abused? Stat News spoke with a bioethicist about the nature of responsible pain prescribing during an opioid epidemic. He noted that it would be irresponsible to immediately cut off all opioid prescriptions in a scenario which would require the substitution of one crisis for another (namely, exchanging the opioid crisis for a pain crisis).
But the research about opioid pain relievers does not suggest this would be the case. In fact, the evidence favoring opioid therapy for chronic pain unrelated to cancer is very weak. Some evidence suggests that opioids might in fact increase a patient’s sensitivity to pain. Meanwhile, the side effects and potential for addiction often outweigh the negligible benefits of opioid pain therapy. Under these conditions, the medical community may well determine that the best health outcomes are achieved by weaning patients off opioid painkillers and implementing alternative pain management techniques.
Of course, not all patients can or should be taken off opioids altogether. Pain is a highly individualized combination of signs and symptoms. No two patients experience pain in the exact same manner, and the same treatment may not work universally for an entire class of patients. Chronic pain is particularly complicated. Patients who have been on opioid therapies for extended amounts of time may not respond well to other treatments or even decreased dosages. Doctors must continue to assess each patient on a case-by-case basis to find the treatments that are right for that individual. But as they do, they should be mindful of the dangers posed by opioid prescriptions.
A Doctor’s Legal Duty of Care
Like other states, Idaho law requires medical malpractice plaintiffs to prove that the defendant physician failed to meet the legal standard of care. Section 6-1012 of the Idaho Statutes defines this as the applicable standard of health care practice of the community in which such care allegedly was or should have been provided, as such standard existed at the time and place of the alleged negligence.
An Idaho medical malpractice attorney can help patients and families determine whether a doctor was, in fact, negligent in prescribing opioid painkillers. An attorney will also help medical malpractice victims determine how best to assert their legal rights. This may be accomplished through filing a claim with the doctor’s malpractice insurance carrier, filing a civil lawsuit against the doctor, or reporting the doctor to the state medical board. If you or a loved one has been adversely affected by an opioid prescription, we may be able to help. Contact our law firm today.