Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tell us that here in the United States, more than 15,000 deaths every year are linked to opioid use alone.

Can a doctor who overprescribes painkillers be held liable for medical malpractice? Precisely how would medical negligence be determined in such a case and how can a Chicago medical malpractice attorney help?

WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF MEDICAL MALPRACTICE?

If a patient becomes addicted to a prescription painkiller, is it the doctor’s fault? Or is it the patient’s? Is the addiction a consequence of medical malpractice? Finding the answers to these important questions begins by defining precisely what constitutes medical malpractice.

Healthcare professionals in Illinois must offer their patients a “reasonable” standard of care. They are expected to provide fully competent, professional care and treatment comparable to what most other healthcare providers in Illinois would offer in similar circumstances.

medical professionals

If medical professionals fail to offer a reasonable standard of care, they are negligent. If their negligence causes an injury or causes a patient’s health to deteriorate, the injured patient is entitled under Illinois law to monetary compensation.

WHAT ARE THE RIGHTS OF MEDICAL MALPRACTICE VICTIMS?

With a successful medical malpractice claim, a victim of medical negligence can be reimbursed for his or her lost wages, additional medical expenses, pain and suffering, and all other related losses and damages.

Opiate-based painkillers cause more overdose deaths each year in the U.S. than any other type of drug. If an Illinois doctor harms a patient’s health by overprescribing painkillers, that patient – or the surviving family members – may seek justice by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

We trust our doctors to “do no harm” and to use their skills and training to treat our injuries and diseases. Doctors are supposed to ensure that a prescribed dosage of a drug is the right dosage, but overprescribing and other medication errors injure thousands every year right here in Illinois.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS MISCOMMUNICATE?

Many dosage errors are caused by a failure to communicate clearly. For example, a doctor might inadvertently write the wrong dosage on a prescription, or a pharmacist could misread a prescription and offer a patient the wrong drugs or put a wrong dosage amount on the label.

If there is any possibility of a mistake or a misunderstanding, a simple phone call from the pharmacist to the doctor can usually clear it up. When medical professionals do not make the extra effort to ensure that they are communicating clearly, their patients are being put at risk.

communicating with patients

What happens next can be catastrophic. In a Missouri case in 2016, after hearing that a man was prescribed over 37,000 pain pills from 2008 through 2012 – far above the dosages recommended by the CDC – a jury awarded $1.4 million to the victim and $1.2 million to his wife.

According to the National Academy of Medicine, overprescribing and other medication mistakes affect at least a million people a year in the United States.

HOW CAN A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LAWYER HELP YOU?

If you have been injured or if your health has deteriorated because you were prescribed the wrong drugs (or the right drugs in improper dosages), discuss your case, your options, and your legal rights as quickly as possible with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney.

A good medical malpractice lawyer will review the details of your case and will also consult with an independent medical expert. If your medical malpractice claim prevails, the party who injured you will be held accountable, and you will be reimbursed for your losses and damages.

HOW CAN AN EXPERT MEDICAL WITNESS HELP YOU?

To prove a doctor’s negligence, your attorney will need all of your pertinent medical records. In Illinois malpractice cases, your lawyer is also required to consult with a medical expert witness who will review your case and offer an opinion regarding your doctor’s presumed negligence.

testifying in court

Medical authorities who testify as expert witnesses can often make the difference in a medical malpractice case. Your attorney will know or will be able to locate a medical expert who can explain precisely what happened to you in a way that the average juror can understand.

ARE DOCTORS RESPONSIBLE FOR A PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE EPIDEMIC?

Prescribing medicines is not a precise science. We expect our doctors to rely on their training, their experience, and their intuition. Candidly speaking, medical malpractice claims that arise from medication errors can sometimes be difficult to prove.

However, a doctor must always provide “due care.” When painkillers have been prescribed to a patient, the doctor needs to monitor the patient with follow-up visits; explain alternative pain management approaches; and watch carefully for signs of drug dependency or addiction.

If due care is not exercised when a doctor prescribes opioids, the outcome could be addiction or even death. If a patient dies due to overprescribing or some other medication mistake, surviving family members should talk to a medical malpractice lawyer about filing a wrongful death claim.

handcuffs and gavel

Doctors may feel stuck in the middle when a patient is in serious pain, and that patient demands higher painkiller dosages. A doctor who overprescribes may face not only medical malpractice lawsuits but also criminal charges and even the revocation of that doctor’s medical license.

WHAT’S THE BEST APPROACH FOR DOCTORS WHO TREAT CHRONIC PAIN?

Doctors who strictly adhere to the prescription guidelines established by the CDC should be able to avoid lawsuits arising from prescription errors. It is also important for doctors who treat patients with chronic pain to stay abreast of changing guidelines, trends, and research findings.

If you believe that you may be the victim of a medication error, arrange at once to talk with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney.

Malpractice lawyers in Illinois offer the victims of medical negligence a free first consultation. A malpractice attorney can explain how the law applies in your own situation and recommend the most constructive way to move forward – which might be a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Everybody gets sick, which means that anyone could be a victim of medical malpractice. If you have been injured by negligence while you were seeking medical treatment, arrange right away to speak with a reliable Illinois medical malpractice lawyer. A good lawyer’s help is your right.