Our last post introduced new groundbreaking investigative journalism from the Los Angeles Times. In its study out this week, the Times pointed to two problems in the Los Angeles area that are driving a deadly trend towards prescription drug overdoses.
As the last post discussed, one of the problems is that doctors may be committing medical malpractice by recklessly prescribing these drugs to too many patients.
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or healthcare professional does not live up to a certain standard of care. In most states, that standard is determined by how other, similar professionals would act in the same treatment situation. For example, if a doctor prescribed a high dose of oxycodone where most doctors would recommend first trying physical therapy, he might be committing malpractice if other factors point to a risk for the patient.
That appears to be a common problem among Los Angeles doctors. For decades, doctors only prescribed powerful narcotics for patients suffering from terminal illnesses or severe cancer. The justification was that the risk of addiction and overdose was too high for other patients.
In recent years, many doctors have gotten away from that approach. The shift has been so strong that narcotics substances often rank among the most popular and best-selling pharmaceutical products throughout the nation.
We will come back to this topic one more time to look at two medical malpractice-specific scenarios that are particularly concerning for Los Angeles patients.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "Feeble safeguards for at-risk pain patients," Lisa Girion and Scott Glover, Dec. 9, 2012