doctor investigated for over prescribing pain killers

There are many cases of medical malpractice that arise from a health care provider making an inexcusable mistake, or from a failure to take action when they should have. These may be the most typical types of medical malpractice, but there are many others. For instance, a doctor on the West Coast is currently facing discipline before her state medical board for negligently prescribing powerful narcotics to patients at levels that were not safe. In the last four years, eight of her patients have died from overdosing on drugs that she prescribed for them.

The state Osteopathic Medical Board has accused the doctor of prescribing narcotics with little or no prior examination of the patients.

The fifty-five pages of allegations that the doctor must answer before the board relate to seven specific patients, one of whom was an undercover investigator for the medical board.

The doctor is accused of ignoring serious problems reported by the patients, such as chest pains. Apparently the doctor responded to all complaints with prescriptions of large quantities of addictive pain killers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.

Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorneys noted that it was initially a local newspaper investigation into the deaths of the eight overdosing patients that drew attention to the doctor’s alleged negligence. The news investigation uncovered evidence that the doctor also prescribed narcotics to dealers who then sold them to other people, two of whom also overdosed and died.

The doctor is being investigated by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration for allegedly running a “pill mill” in which she sold prescriptions to people who did not have conditions that merited prescribing powerful medications. Boxes and computers were taken from the doctor’s office in an August raid by the DEA.

For one patient the doctor was prescribing five narcotic pain relievers every month. This meant the patient was getting a total of more than 800 pills every thirty days. Needless to say, this quantity far exceeds U.S. Food & Drug Administration safety and toxicity levels.

The case demonstrates that medical malpractice does not only arise from health care providers’ carelessness or inattention. In some cases doing exactly what the patient wants – to be highly medicated, for instance – is a disservice to the patient and can rise to the level of actionable malpractice.

Source: L.A. Times “Authorities move to revoke license of doctor linked to overdose deaths” 3/26/2011

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