The opioid crisis has been sweeping the nation, leaving
human wreckage in its wake. This crisis can be blamed at least in part on
doctors who over-prescribe pain pills without taking proper precautions against
the risk of addiction.
A jury in Missouri recently said “enough” and held a St.
Louis doctor liable for malpractice for prescribing more than 37,000 pain pills
over a 4-year period to a patient with a back injury.
The case involved a city maintenance worker who was in his
thirties when he sought treatment for chronic lower back pain a decade ago. According to the lawsuit, his primary care
physician Henry Walden immediately began opioid therapy of “unfixed duration”
rather than seeking other treatment options.
The dosage steadily increased over the next four years. When
the patient began this treatment in 2008, he was taking 54 milligrams of
narcotics per day. By 2012, he was taking more than 1,500 milligrams per day.
These drugs included OxyContin, Oxycodone and Vicodin.
The doctor also apparently did not monitor the patient’s
treatment. According to the patient, he suffered severe addiction as a result,
which cost him his marriage and permanently destroyed his other family relationships.
This case may represent an extreme situation, but opioid
addiction is increasingly common. And it doesn’t take a “pill mill” physician
like Walden to trigger severe addiction. Well-meaning physicians can easily
fall into the trap of overprescribing opioids too. If they violate standards of
professional care in doing so, they can also be held accountable just like the
doctor in St. Louis. So if you or a loved one is showing signs of opioid
addiction and you have questions about the treatment plan, you should talk to
an attorney to see what kinds of rights you might have.