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Should Hospitals Take Responsibility For Opioid Addiction?

An IV drip in the hallway of a hospital

Here’s a question to consider…If you undergo a surgical procedure at a Connecticut hospital and are prescribed an opioid painkiller that leads to a full-blown opioid addiction – should that hospital or the prescribing physician be held accountable for causing the problem?

That’s a question physicians and hospital administrators are beginning to wrestle with across the U.S.

It’s a very important question.

Should a prescription induced opioid addiction be considered a medical error – similar to a hospital acquired infection?

Three hospital executives, writing for the publication Health Affairs, argue it should be.

“It arises during a hospitalization, is a high-cost and high-volume condition, and could reasonably have been prevented through the application of evidence-based guidelines,” the three recently wrote.

Surely placing hospitals on the hook for opioid addictions linked to care would increase pressure on these institutions to carefully restrict and monitor opioid prescriptions by attending physicians.

But are there institutional barriers to such an idea?

Yup.

As a result of a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, many hospitals are being compensated based in part on the results of patient satisfaction surveys.

And one of the key elements of these surveys often asks patients whether the hospital staff did everything possible to help them with their pain?

The result?

All too often physicians choose to over-prescribe opioids rather than face complaints and low scores from their patients. In fact, studies show that between 62 and 92 percent of patients have opioid pills left over after common surgical procedures.

Astonishingly, part of the challenge is there are no firm prescribing guidelines for opioid use for acute conditions like surgical pain.

Equally puzzling is the fact that so many physicians prescribe these drugs with little or no understanding of the actual addictive risks to patients. And in many cases, they’re also unable to help patients suffering with opioid withdrawal because they don’t have the training to recognize those symptoms.

Which gets us back to our original question…

Should a prescription induced opioid addiction be considered a medical error – similar to a hospital acquired infection?

We believe in some cases they should be.

In any event, perhaps when they are, hospitals and physicians will make a more concerted effort to break their reckless over-reliance on these drugs.

If you or a loved one is ever the victim of a surgical error, a defective drug, the improper prescription of a drug therapy, over-exposure to medical radiation, a hospital acquired infection, a fall while in the hospital, a preventable blood clot, a misdiagnosis, or any form of medical malpractice, call a qualified Connecticut medical malpractice lawyer. A knowledgeable malpractice attorney can help to ensure that your rights are protected.

RisCassi & Davis has handled hundreds of medical malpractice cases over our more than 60 years serving the people of Connecticut.

What’s more, our Connecticut medical malpractice lawyers have received local and national recognition for our handling of these cases.

We have a great team of legal experts dedicated to medical malpractice in Connecticut.   Please contact us if we can help you.

The consultation is free and there is no obligation of any kind.

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