Opioid Crisis Could Be Caused By Medical Malpractice: How?


The president just declared an opioid epidemic.  This has been something on the news a lot in the past few years, particularly the last month or so significantly.  It seems that the news is almost always littered with stories about the opioid epidemic and how it is killing people, or resulting in gang violence over drug sales.  More and more people are dying from it.

And some state Attorney Generals, including New York, are discussing, have filed, or are about to file lawsuits against drug manufacturers and healthcare providers regarding the opioid epidemic.

But could the opioid epidemic be caused by medical malpractice?


Opioids are drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain and can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms.  They are commonly given after surgical procedures or for serous injuries causing pain, such as badly broken bones or massive lacerations.  They are used a lot in hospitals.

Medical malpractice is the act or omission by a healthcare provider which deviates from the accepted standard of care.  The accepted standard of care is the norms of practice what a reasonably prudent physician with similar training, skill, and experience would have done under similar circumstances.  Like all negligence cases, there must be a duty, breach of that duty, and a damages which are caused by that breach.

If a doctor is overprescribing opioids or giving them to patients who do not need them, that can be medical malpractice if another reasonably prudent physician would not have done so.  For instance, doctors who give up opioids for sprained fingers may be committing medical malpractice and contributing to the opioid crisis.  Doctors who are giving out all many opioids to patients after big surgeries, or blindly re-filling prescriptions without checking on the needs of a patient could further be committing medical malpractice because the drug may not be indicated for that patient.  Or if the patient is addicted, and a reasonably prudent physician would have discovered that, it would still be medical malpractice to give more of that drug.