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Opioid tapering and medical malpractice: What you should know

On Behalf of | Aug 16, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

The history of how the opioid crisis came to be is fairly clear. After years of virtually ignoring their patients’ chronic pain for fear those patients would become addicts, doctors were given the green light to freely prescribe new opioids. Many patients with chronic pain suddenly found relief through high doses of Oxycontin and other similar drugs.

Then, the overdoses started. People who were given opioids for short-term pain, in particular, seemed prone to addiction. Their addictions led to doctor-shopping, forged prescriptions and illicit drug use — and, sometimes, death.

Suddenly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the nation’s medical authorities did an abrupt about-face. Doctors now were encouraged to get their patients off pain meds altogether. Even those who had been stable on higher doses for a while and remained totally compliant with all patient directives found themselves being tapered off the medications that allowed them some semblance of normal lives.

Tapering and poor patient care led to overdoses and suicides

The damage to chronic pain patients has been tremendous. New studies  increasingly show that tapering stable patients off opioids precipitates an alarming rate of overdoses and suicides. Statistically, the move to eliminate opioid use for chronic pain is associated with four overdoses per 100 patients and four mental health crises.

The fault is partially on the “powers that be,” e.g., the CDC, who have pushed doctors to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions they give out, but it’s also on the doctors themselves. Many disregard their patients’ actual conditions and needs to adhere to an inflexible — and arbitrary — schedule for tapering. They also ignore their patients’ mental states during the process in favor of simply getting them off the drugs at any cost.

A doctor’s failure to monitor a patient’s condition may be fatal

When a doctor fails to carefully monitor a patient who is being tapered off opioids or ignores signs that they are suffering from intractable pain, depression or suicidal ideation, that could be malpractice. If your loved one died after being tapered off their medication, find out more about your legal options to seek civil justice.