Should Physicians Be Responsible for Addictions in Patients?

neon prescription signThe West Virginia Supreme Court took on a controversial matter and decided that doctors or pharmacies who gave patients pain killers in a negligent manner can be sued if those patients become addicted.

This case came from 29 patients at the same medical center in West Virginia, though it is a debate surrounding facilities across the country. Some say that you can’t place all the blame on the doctors or pharmacists, and some say that they should do more to ensure their patients do not become addicted. There is the question of negligence, and to what degree of negligence that certain health care worker was if they were.

The Mountain Medical Center in West Virginia came under investigation and was shut down by the FBI in 2010. They saw that the center was improperly doling out controlled substances to patients, and 29 patients brought a lawsuit against the center. The state’s Supreme Court said that they will leave individual decisions from this case and others up to a jury, as each circumstance will be different. Some plaintiffs in this case admitted they used these kinds of drugs before they even went to the medical center.

One of the doctors at the center was accused of illegally prescribing hundreds of scripts for pain medications, and she now lives in the Bahamas and has not faced any charges or jail time. Other clinic workers were sentenced to six months in prison.

In one of the dissenting opinion from the court a justice wrote “…an attempt to determine who is the least culpable- a drug addict or his dealer.”

In the majority opinion, a justice said that “the plaintiff’s own wrongful conduct does not prohibit them from seeking damages as the result of the actions of others.”

Not that some health workers are completely innocent of recklessly prescribing drugs, but maybe there should be more proactive strategies put in place to prevent addictions or accidental overdoses in the first place. Rather than place blame after the fact, there could be more measures in place to prevent tragedies. Pharmacies and doctors should communicate to make sure that each other knows exactly how much of what the patient is getting. Pharmacies should take note of doctors who may be seen as prescribing a large amount of dangerous opioid drugs, and investigate to make sure that doctor is prescribing with reasonable and medically sound intentions.

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