As a medical malpractice attorney you’d know that prescription drug overdose cases are seen more and more often in the United States. This is a personal injury case that would involve detailed and comprehensive medical record review to prove causation. Reviewing medical documentation can be quite tedious, especially when you are untrained in medical matters and terminology. In this regard, you could consider medical record review for attorneys, a reliable service provided by medical review firms. Coming back to the topic of prescription drug abuse, opioid overdose kills a number of Americans with many people in the United States taking opioids for pain. In such cases, the possibilities for misuse, addiction and accidental overdose are manifold.
Opioid Abuse – a Result of the Patient Developing an Addiction Disorder
Prescription drug abuse could occur if:
- The patient takes a medication that was prescribed for another person
- Takes the medication in a different way from the prescribed mode
- Misuses the medication, to get ‘high,’ for instance
- Consumes a larger dose than that prescribed
Once an injury or death is caused by a prescription drug, the doctor is very likely to face blame. This is why physicians must calculate risks for each patient they prescribe narcotics to so that the danger of overdose is avoided. It is a sad truth though that many physicians fail to successfully assess the risks with their patients before prescribing dangerous and addictive medications.
There are yet other cases where the doctor may have been really negligent as in a recently reported news item. This article in Charleston Gazette-Mail spoke of a Charleston neurologist under whose medical care at least 64 patients died from drug overdose between 2010 and 2015. In February this year, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration raided the doctor’s office to find the medical records of those 64 patients. It is reported that there is probable cause to believe that the doctor distributed controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the limits of his medical practice between 2010 and 2015. The raid was following a review of death investigations and post-mortem examination findings from the state medical examiner as well as other significant reports. The Board of Medicine has suspended the neurologist’s medical license for three years, on finding that he had failed to maintain appropriate medical records and on top of that given inappropriate instructions for the use of controlled substances.
Significance of Medical Record Review
Review of the deceased patients’ medical records in cases such as the above enables you to find evidence that point to the doctor’s negligence. It would also provide information regarding the patients, their age, diagnoses, prescribed medications, dates of treatment and the cause of death. It is important for doctors to maintain medical records appropriately because that is the only proof to establish the dosage of medication prescribed, whether that dosage has been changed or reduced over a period of time, whether the medication itself has been changed and so on. Otherwise, in the absence of proper medical documentation the investigating agency may rely more on the testimony of the injured party.
In most US states, the law provides diverse personal injury claims for people seriously injured by a prescription drug. These include:
- Strict liability for a defective product
- Breach of warranty
Damages sought by injured people include:
- Medical expenses, past and future
- Physical pain and suffering, mental trauma, physical impairment
- Loss of earnings and/or other earning capacity.
If the injured person dies, the family of the victim can file a wrongful death action and seek damages.
Physicians Must be More Wary
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, in the year 2010, 38, 329 people died of drug overdoses – an increase from the 37,004 deaths in 2009. It is estimated that the overdose death rate has more than tripled since the year 1990. Legal experts advise that:
- Doctors have to be vigilant and ensure that the patient is not abusing the prescription, selling the drugs or overusing it.
- Closer monitoring is necessary of patients who request pain medication, because this can help prevent such unfortunate incidents and avoid lawsuits.
Since a medical record review is indispensable in any medical malpractice or personal injury case, physicians must ensure that their records are compliant with all state laws and regulations.