A patient taking prescription drugs had attempted suicide. The family blamed his physician. The patient was on an antidepressant, and unbeknownst to his psychiatrist, he also was taking a narcotic prescribed by an orthopedist. In a drug-induced haze, the man threw himself down a flight of stairs, breaking his neck.
Guess what? The psychiatrist settled. And this is not uncommon:
In Alabama a jury awarded a widower $500,000 after he sued his wife’s family physician. Attorneys for the husband said the woman died of an accidental overdose after being prescribed narcotic pain medications and central nervous system depressants.
In April 2012, a woman was awarded $1.9 million after she sued her family physician. She claimed he overprescribed her methadone, leading to brain damage after she stopped breathing.
As this American Medical News article states, some cases are won by the doctor, “but because of excessive injuries and tragic circumstances surrounding most overdoses, the majority of lawsuits settle, legal experts say.”
To me, there are a few issues here. I understand there are still careless and bad doctors out there. But when a patient decides to kill herself, with my medication, how is it my fault? I mean if I ask the right questions at the visit about suicide risk and so forth, how can there decision put me at risk? I am blown away by that. Secondly, with so many medication interactions, it is hard to give some medications at all. The EMR gives different warning signs and the doctor has to sign off. Sometimes the risks seem very minor but my gut tells me it won’t matter in a court of law. I just know a lot of docs blow these warnings off. My last concern involves the rest of the article referenced above. They talk about screening patients who are pimping you for narcotics. How is there NOT a national prescription monitoring service that I can tap into? I can do it my state but not all states even have one. With all our technology and all the government demands to curtail narcotic abuse, how has this not been done?