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Can a Doctor be Held Liable for an Opioid Overdose?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for headache-1540220_1920.jpgPatients undergoing major surgery or those dealing with chronic pain are often prescribed opioid medications. These opioids have given rise to a crisis of massive proportions. Opioid addiction and overdose deaths are increasing dramatically. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of all fatal opioid overdoses involve a prescription. Furthermore, for every one of these opioid overdose death, experts estimate nearly 130 people abuse or have a dependency on these drugs.

In Illinois, opioid use is rampant. According to Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) data, there were 1,826 opioid-related deaths in the state in 2016. This represents an increase of over 70 percent from the number of opioid-related deaths reported in 2013 and a 32.1 percent increase over the 1,382 opioid-related deaths reported by IDPH in 2015.

Once people begin taking opioids, many of them become hooked on these highly addictive drugs. Often it is the result of patients obtaining prescriptions from "pill mills", where doctors perfunctorily write opioid prescriptions without first examining the patient.

Doctors can be responsible for opioid addiction and overdose death if they fail to responsibly dispense medication; fail to administer proper care and treatment; or fail to monitor a patient to ensure they are receiving a proper dose of medication and not becoming addicted to these dangerous drugs. These steps are critical in determining whether a patient is on the right medication, at the right dosage, and for the right amount of time.

Researchers point to patient mismanagement as a possible cause of such medical malpractice actions, and note that doctors sometimes renew a patient's prescription without reevaluating their current health status. Another cause of medical malpractice is physicians failing to properly advise patients of other treatment options.

No doctor should be prescribing opioid medication to patients without first examining them, and to do so would be an obvious deviation from the acceptable standard of care. Doctors must obtain a full medical history (including any history of addiction) before they administer these addictive pain medications.

Moreover if pain medication is going to be used longer than short-term, patients should seek a referral to a pain management doctor or a specialist.

If you or a loved one are suffering from opioid addiction, or have lost a loved one to this epidemic, it may be because of malpractice. A lawyer can help fight for your rights and get justice for you. Contact The Collins Law Firm today to speak with a lawyer who can help you in your time of need.

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