Image of prescription pill bottles representing Opioid prescription malpractice.

Is Opioid Prescription Malpractice?

As more and more states sign on to the multibillion-dollar settlement with Purdue Pharmacy and the Sackler family, it is important to remember that this entire series of events would not have been possible without the intervention of medical professionals. Opioid prescriptions unbarred the door through which a massive flood of addictions, overdoses, and deaths flowed.

Multiple doctors have been arrested for fueling the epidemic. From doctors who prescribed opioids without a legitimate medical purpose, to pharmacies and doctors who funneled millions of opioids into towns of a few thousand, there have been many brazen acts over the span of this struggle. 

Obviously, these extreme cases have been so bold that there is little doubt in their criminality and their liability. A more complex question, however, is what to do about the individual doctors who helped fuel addictions in much more subtle ways. 

As the opioid epidemic continued, some patients would inflict injuries on themselves in order to acquire more of the addictive narcotics. The question then shifted. If a doctor was prescribing opioids to a patient who had an injury but was also potentially addicted to opioids, is the malpractice in writing the opioid prescription to manage the pain or in allowing the patient to remain in pain but not feed their potential addiction?

In determining the liability of medical malpractice, the doctor must be found to have at least been negligent. A case study from the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information examines what it calls the “Four Ds” for determining liability. These are:

  • Duty – a responsibility of one party to act in the best interest of the other
  • Dereliction – a failure to act according to the standard of care
  • Direct Cause – a solid connection between one party and the injuries of the other
  • Damages – real harms that arose from the injuries

Since doctors are expected to care for their patients, the first D is almost always met unless the patient was not assigned to that doctor. Unfortunately, when it comes to determining fault in the opioid epidemic, the other Ds are not as easily handled.  

Writing an opioid prescription could be considered dereliction if it was not an approved or common method of treatment. One of the main issues of the opioid epidemic, however, is just how common it was for doctors to prescribe opioids for a variety of pain management situations. Before knowledge of the dangers of addiction was widespread, all doctors had were the materials given to them from manufacturers who claimed that their opioids were not addictive. 

Showing how an opioid prescription directly caused opioid addiction may be possible, but fully capturing the extent of the damages can be difficult to quantify and even more difficult to compellingly argue. While a mass torts attorney can effectively argue that the companies should have known better, if you or a loved one have had your opioid addiction fueled by a medical practitioner, you may need a medical malpractice attorney. 

An experienced medical malpractice attorney can not only effectively frame your case, but they can also produce expert witnesses who can testify as to whether or not it was reasonable to use potentially addictive opioids as opposed to a safer alternative. Their experts can also argue whether it would be reasonable for a doctor or practitioner to understand the risks when they wrote your opioid prescription. 

With the right medical malpractice attorney, your case can have a dramatically better outcome. The best place to find the right medical malpractice attorney is with Attorney at Law

At AAL, our nationwide network of attorneys and law firms allows us to match you with the best attorney in your area. Our partner firms have the resources, legal expertise, and experience to guarantee the best outcome for your case. 

In addition to their ability to fight the largest medical corporations, our partners are also unparalleled in their client care. Our partners understand the stress and trouble that a lawsuit can cause. That’s why our partners make it their mission to provide empathetic and understanding care in addition to top-notch legal representation.

Don’t wait. Contact AAL today for a free, no obligation consultation and begin your journey to justice

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