Opioid prescriptions cited in malpractice lawsuits

The national opioid crisis is now in the courtroom. Medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits were filed for the deaths of three patients after they received prescriptions from two Cleveland Clinic physicians.

One patient suffered from years of chronic physical pain from his truck driving job and two motorcycle accidents when he was younger. He took oxycodone, hydrocodone and Xanax prescribed by his Clinic doctor, according to the lawsuit. His family was concerned about his confusion, moodiness and lack of sociability. His wife shared these concerns and asked his doctor to cut the dosage, but the physician's notes indicate that he did not make this change.

He died one month after this 2016 visit at age 68 when sleeping in his living room chair. Hardening of the arteries and acute intoxication from an accidental Oxycontin overdose were the cited cause of death, according to his death certificate.

Eight months earlier, in October 2015, he accidentally overdose and exhibited an altered mental status. A dose of Narcan, used for reversing Opioid overdoses, was administered at the Clinic and his condition improved. His physicians were told that he took larger dosages than were prescribed.

Another Clinic physician was also sued for the death of two of his patients. A 57-year-old patient died from an accidental oxycodone overdose in December 2016, and another died in September 2015 after an accidental overdose of oxycodone, hydrocodone, and alprazolam.

In all three cases, according to a plaintiff's attorney, the patients showed clear warning signs of substance abuse and addiction problems. The lawsuits claim that the doctors did not properly assess and treat their patients' pain and addiction, and that their failure to refer their patients to addiction specialist led to their death from opioids.

There may be a large increase in this type of legal action, as 2.7 million Americans were addicted or dependent on opioids in 2015, and 19,00 people died from overdoes of these pain relievers in 2016. When a doctor's negligence leads to the death of a loved one, an attorney can help assure that a cause of action is timely filed and the right to compensation is pursued.

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