Wife sues husband’s doctor for fatal painkiller overdose

Last month on our Joliet medical malpractice law blog, we had mentioned that prescription painkiller overdose deaths remain a huge concern in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that one type of painkiller, methadone, is the cause of about 30 percent of all fatal pain-reliever overdoses.

Although patients are certainly responsible for taking the correct doses of their medications, doctors must also make sure that they carefully prescribe strong painkillers and other medications in order to prevent fatal overdoses or other medication errors. When patients have a history of addiction, or when patients will not benefit from taking a pain-reliever, doctors may want to consider safer alternatives when prescribing medications.

One doctor recently surrendered his license to practice medicine after it was discovered that he was not as conservative as he should have been when prescribing pain medications. Several of his patients had suffered fatal overdoses.

The wife of one of the doctor’s patients has filed a lawsuit. The medical malpractice lawsuit claims the doctor “caused or contributed to” the patient’s death. The woman’s husband was only 32 years old when he died of an overdose. The widow is now caring for their two young children on her own.

According to the widow’s suit, her husband started taking hydrocodone painkillers in 2007 when the man’s doctor prescribed the drugs. The woman says that her husband later became addicted to the painkillers and overdosed in 2010. If the doctor had been more conservative when prescribing addictive painkillers, the woman’s husband might not have ever been given a prescription for hydrocodone.

In addition to the widow’s lawsuit, the doctor was also accused of “promiscuously” prescribing painkillers by the Iowa Board of Medicine. The board said that several of the doctor’s patients had died from overdoses. The board also discovered that the doctor had prescribed the medications to some patients without conducting all of the appropriate tests and assessments that are supposed to be administered before prescribing addictive painkillers.

The doctor has paid a $10,000 fine in response to the medical board’s accusations. However, a settlement or award has yet to be reached between the doctor and the widow who is suing him.

Source: Des Moines Register, “Newton doctor surrenders license, allegedly prescribed narcotics that killed patients,” Tony Leys, Aug. 1, 2012

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