Can a Patient Sue a Doctor After Becoming Addicted to Pain Medications?

A person recovering from a painful injury or a surgery may be prescribed opioid pain medicines. While these are very effective, addiction is one of their most potent side effects. Below is information on when a patient’s pain medication addiction may provide grounds for a malpractice suit.

Addiction: How Common is It?

Most narcotics are derived from opium, the active ingredient in heroin. Codeine and morphine are the most common medications, and synthetic opioids are Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin. Many patients cannot stop taking the medications without professional assistance. A recent review shows that about 4.5% of patients using narcotic pain medications became addicted. However, assigning fault for the addiction can be complex, and it requires an evaluation of the factors that make up a medical malpractice claim.

Proving a Physician’s Negligence

To prove a physician’s negligence during a prescription narcotic-related malpractice case, the attorney must obtain the patient’s medical records, and they may need to hire a medical industry witness to review those records. Most professional witnesses are doctors in the same field as the defendant. Unless malpractice is obvious, it is almost impossible to win a claim without a professional’s testimony.

Proving the Over-Prescription of Pain Medicines

To prove that a physician negligently prescribed pain medicines to an addicted patient, the professional witness will evaluate the person’s:

  • Medical history
  • Diagnoses
  • Physical complaints
  • Medical findings

Other factors, such as the treating physician’s experience and textbook information on the condition, can help a medical witness make a determination.

Previous Addictions

If a patient has a history of opioid addiction and the doctor prescribes narcotics, it could leave that physician vulnerable to a malpractice claim. When doctors prescribe opioids for minor injuries, they often behave negligently and can be sued. However, when patients fail to disclose previous narcotic use, the doctor can be absolved of blame.

Hire an Attorney

These cases can be difficult to analyze. If a person suspects they may be able to sue a prescribing doctor, they should schedule a consultation with the Law Office of Julie Johnson. Often, a short discussion with an attorney can help a client determine which factors to consider in protecting their health and legal rights.