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Prescription Drug Overdoses and Medical Malpractice

With prescription painkillers like oxycodone more accessible than ever before, fatal overdoses cases are also on the rise. Doctors have a responsibility to help prevent overdoses by carefully controlling which patients have access to potentially addictive and deadly drugs. According to many observers, however, the medical community is not doing its part to protect patients.

More than 38,000 Americans died from prescription drug overdoses in 2010. Of these fatalities, only 17 percent were suicides - most of the rest were unintentional overdoses. This rate is more than 300 percent of the rate of overdoses in 1990.

Doctors could prevent many of these overdoses by exercising greater care in two areas. First, many doctors fail to look carefully at a patient's entire medication regimen. Overdoses often happen because of a dangerous combination of drug effects - without a meticulous review of every portion of a patient's medication plan, doctors can send people home with a potentially deadly order. 

Second, the medical profession might need to start looking for other overdose warning signs. Patients who demonstrate indications of a substance addiction should probably raise red flags for doctors - however, several studies show that many physicians merely "rubber stamp" requests for powerful pain-killers.

When an overdose resulted from a doctor's negligent prescription decisions, the victim's family is likely entitled to pursue a medical malpractice claim to hold that doctor accountable.

Source: American Medical News, "Physician liability: When an overdose brings a lawsuit," Alicia Gallegos, Mar. 4, 2013 

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