Does Over-Prescribing Medication Constitute Malpractice?

The over-prescribing of medication is a topic that has been discussed for many years now, particularly as people in and around our area have become addicted to opioids. However, does over-prescribing medication constitute medical malpractice? The reality is that medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the country, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins. One of the most common medical mistakes that are made are errors concerning medication. It could certainly be argued that over-prescribing constitutes medical malpractice.

The most common over-prescribed medications

Any opioid can be over-prescribed, but over the last few years, it has been found that the following medications tend to be more over-prescribed than others, and the effects can be disastrous:

  • Fentanyl
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Morphine

What is the danger of over-prescribing a medication?

The reality is that there certainly are reasons that a person may need to be prescribed a pain medication. Recently, there has been a dramatic shift towards demonizing any medication prescriptions for pain. However, after serious accidents or surgeries, pain medications help people recover and rehabilitate. Unfortunately, opioids are highly addictive and can create a dependency that can prevent a person from functioning without them. These medications can also have significant adverse effects:

  • Not exploring other pain management avenues. When a person is on an opioid for pain, this often prevents them from exploring other solutions to end their pain. However, in taking opiates for a primary method of pain management, the brain will become dependent on these medications. This could result in a person feeling their pain more intensely when they do try alternative pain management solutions.
  • Physical side effects and ailments. The side effects of opioids can become life-threatening if they continue. For example, some patients experience nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and constipation. These side effects can lead a person passing out behind the wheel of a vehicle or while performing other activities.
  • Respiratory issues. One of the most common causes of death concerning opioid overdoses is respiratory depression. This means that a person’s breathing becomes shallow and slow, and their body does not get enough oxygen. This can lead to hypoxia. Even those who do survive these incidents can suffer from permanent brain damage.

The medical malpractice debate

Malpractice cases center around whether or not a physician has complied with acceptable standards of care to their patients, including their oath to do no harm. Over-prescribing a medication can lead to significant injuries or death of a patient, and this could constitute a breach of the acceptable standard of care.

The standard of care in medical malpractice cases is determined by comparing the actions of one physician to another in a similar field and with similar training and background. If it is determined that a physician breached their duty of care after comparing how a similarly trained physician would act in a similar situation, it may be possible to hold them accountable for medical malpractice. Importantly, physicians understand the dangers of over-prescribing pain medications, and any physician that prescribes more than a reasonable dose may have breached their duty of care to the patient. If you have additional questions, reach out to our Louisville medical malpractice attorneys.