Last week, we covered a new report from the Los Angeles Times that raises big questions with area doctors' new approach to prescription drugs. According to the Times' research, many doctors have moved away from reserving narcotics for the most extreme cases - these potentially addictive and deadly substances are now among the most popular drug products.
This has implications for many patients in the region. Los Angeles has a high rate of prescription-related drug overdoses, suggesting that many people are suffering personal injuries or even fatal overdoses as the result of medical malpractice.
Two malpractice scenarios might be at work behind this overdose trend.
One of these big concerns is whether doctors are assessing patients for potential risk factors before making these prescriptions - handing dangerous drugs over to vulnerable patients could recklessly raise the chances of a fatal overdose. For example, some experts believe that doctors need to carefully examine whether a specific patient is likely to become addicted to painkillers. Patients with addictions often end up suffering a potentially deadly overdose.
Another issue is that doctors sometimes neglect to analyze the interplay between different drugs. Strong pharmaceuticals can cause extremely dangerous side effects when taken in combination with other substances. If a prescribing doctor does not do this analysis, patients are often incapable of determining these risks on their own.
The take home from the Los Angeles Times' research, from a legal perspective, appears to be that California doctors need to get back to a more careful prescription approach.
Families of overdose victims may have a claim for medical malpractice where a doctor ignored warning signs and potentially dangerous drug combinations. Doctors are not absolved from the consequences of medical malpratice just because a patient requests a powerful narcotic - it is the medical profession's responsibility to provide only safe prescriptions under safe circumstances.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "Feeble safeguards for at-risk pain patients," Lisa Girion and Scott Glover, Dec. 9, 2012