Suing Doctors For Patient Addictions

22 Comments

Nevada Senator Tick Segerblom proposes bill that would allow patients addicted to prescription drugs to sue doctors for prescribing the addictive medications and manufacturers for creating the medications.

Patients can already sue doctors for prescribing medications if they can prove that writing the prescriptions violated the standard of care and that they have suffered damages as a result. But Tick wants to take the concept a step further. If the patient sues a doctor and wins, the patient should receive payment for rehabilitation, possible punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.

It doesn’t matter that “addiction” can be either physical or psychologic and that there is no reliable way to determine when addiction occurs. Tick’s bill doesn’t define addiction. It also doesn’t matter that people can get addicted to pretty much anything … alcohol, illegal drugs, porn, gambling, even collecting Cabbage Patch Kids. Tick’s bill only cares about those evil doctors. Beware internet service providers, you could be next on the list if your subscribers get addicted to the internet.

But Tick has good reasons for proposing his bill. Since people lived without drugs before, Pharmacologist Tick doesn’t believe that drugs are the only way to treat pain now. That’s true. Patients in cancer pain could always try incantations and faith healing instead of popping pills. Or patients in pain could bust out some whiskey and a bunch of bullets to bite on … after they take anger management classes so they can purchase the bullets. Oops. That’s Florida. Sorry. Wrong state. Double oops. Alcohol could be addictive. Bad example.
Besides, since children are allegedly taught from an early age to do whatever the doctor says, Neuropsychologist Tick says no one has the free choice whether or not to take addictive pain medicines.

It’s not so much that, at least according to his Twitter feed, Tick seems just all … well … tickled … about seeing his proposal published in newspapers. The scary thing is that people like Tick Segerblom are elected to public office and may be able to regulate our lives.

More comments at Overlawyered.com

22 Comments

  1. The losers in all of this would be people in real pain who can’t get pain relief because doctors want to protect themselves.

    But I wonder if this is actually gaining any currency or is this just some random state legislature who introduced something stupid. Because the blogosphere will overreact to pretty much everything.

    • You’re right that patients would be the real losers if such a law was passed.

      Personally, I think that Tick’s sentiments are part of a growing pattern – legislators think that every time something bad happens, there has to be a regulation to fix it. That mentality is killing this country.

      If the blogosphere didn’t call attention to such asinine proposals, then people would be a lot more comfortable making them. If I’m overreacting because I draw attention to things like this, so be it.

      Would you act differently if a legislator in your state passed a bill requiring all attorneys to post a $500,000 bond for every lawsuit they filed so that defendants would have compensation if the claims were later determined to be frivolous?

      • While I certainly agree with WC as to this legislation, I think there’s a wee bit of hypocrisy here. Doctors are always quick to call for new legislation and regulation when they think it benefits THEM. And if someone did propose a $500K bond for attorneys he and his friends at Overlawyered would be celebrating it.

      • “Personally, I think that Tick’s sentiments are part of a growing pattern – legislators think that every time something bad happens, there has to be a regulation to fix it.”

        The way this goes is:

        (1) A Bad Thing happens
        (2) Outrage ensues
        (3) Cries of, “The Government Should DO SOMETHING!”
        (4) Politician: “Okay, HERE’s Something!”
        (5) “YAAAAAAAAY!”

        ::rinse & repeat::

  2. These arrogant halfwits don’t understand the law of unintended consequences. I’m neither a doctor nor a weak thinker of a state senator, but I’m pretty sure the end result of this law would be a massive undertreatment of pain. Wouldn’t that, well, kinda hurt?

  3. If that law passed in my state, then that would prompt immediate cessation of all narcotic prescribing, all benzodiazepine (Valium, etc.) prescribing on my part. So all my chronic pain patients will go to the E.D seizing and the chronic insomniacs will lose their meds (they are benzo’s, folks!)
    That will mean every fracture, no matter how severe, all burns, will go untreated.
    I will hand out this legislator’s name for the patients to complain toward.

    • Hashmd, I disagree. You would let your patients suffer just to avoid the possibility of a very small malpractice case that would very likely never be brought and for which you have malpractice insurance?

      I don’t think you would. I think you would care more about the patient than your own interests. If I’m wrong, please don’t treat any patients in Maryland.

      More chilling then the possibility of this be true is how blaze you would be able this decision.

      In my mind, this comment is as insane as this legislation.

      • Ron,
        Have you ever been sued?
        Even the cases that you consider “very small” require hours of time and effort to get dismissed. Not to mention the extra stress that it brings to an already stressful profession.
        A physician would be insane to risk his hard earned career by continuing to prescribe controlled substances to all the pts who cross his threshold. Physicians already place their pts’ health above their self interests. What profession do you know of that you are regularly expected to miss holidays and special occasions? Work long shifts overnight? Law, business, engineering? I think it’s reasonable to say that a pts’ wellbeing should not supersede my ability to lead a somewhat normal life and provide for my family (who did not take the Hippocratic Oath).
        In addition, the purpose of malpractice insurance is not to pay off every very small case. What would happen to your car insurance premiums if you were involved in multiple “very small” car accidents?

      • Hashed, your asking the wrong question here. The better question is: Would a doctor refuse to aid a potential enemy, who seeks to destroy him both financially and professionally, just because that potential enemy begged him for some drugs?

        My wife answered that question as you would have all doctors answer it, with a YES. Now that same patient who accused her of being cold, and having no empathy for their unbearable pain, is being SUED for everything she’s got because they couldn’t take responsibility for their own misuse of ADDICTIVE drugs. There is no such thing as chronic pain control WITHOUT potential dependance/addiction, and despite the constant pleas of ignorance in courtrooms all over this country, every adult in this society KNOWS THAT.
        Medical practices are businesses, and good business is based on RISK/REWARD. Add to that that doctors don’t get paid to write or refill endless prescriptions for pain relief. Leaving the reward at near zero / with the risk being EVERYTHING.
        Yet you actually believe that medical practices are going to continue to risk everything for nothing just because you think you can shame them into playing right into their enemies hands? Because courtrooms and juries across this land, are very quickly forcing doctors to see those patients who beg them to risk everything to relieve their pain as potential enemies and destroyers of everything they’ve spent a lifetime building. If just one out of a thousand patients turns into your enemy for profit, you loose half a lifetimes work, let 2 out of a thousand do it and your FINISHED. You wouldn’t risk your business or your financial future, betting on the sterling character of everyone that walks through your door, why should doctors be different? Newsflash!! Drug abuse (legal or otherwise) can destroy your life !! But let an unscrupulous lawyer tell you that he can not only give it all back to you, but make you a millionaire to boot, all you have to do is be willing to put that blame on somebody else… Well who ISN’T going to go for that deal? The number 1 cause of all drug abuse is IRRESPONSIBILITY, yet you think drug abusers wont jump at the chance to hold ANYONE but themselves responsible?

        Doctors like my wife who believed it was her duty to relieve pain, will quickly become hard to find once juries and skyrocketing malpractice insurance has put them all out of business. Leaving only good businessman in their place.
        GOOD LUCK getting THEM to write you a prescription for a highly addictive drug, betting none of their patients will abuse it and then try to destroy them, for their kindness. If you think surgery is expensive in this country, just wait until you see the price of pain management, in a society full of overgrown children who believe that every mistake they make is somebody elses’ fault. By siding with the abuser, juries have no idea how painful a mistake they are making for themselves. Chronic pain comes to almost all of us in time, but in the future, relief from it may only be found on the streets at 30 times the cost, and risking prison to get it.
        As for your attempt to on the one hand to frame doctors as greedy drug dealers responsible for for most of this countries drug abuse, while at the same time trying to shame them into believing that theirs is a selfless avocation, some kind of priesthood where anyone not willing to martyr themselves to an ungrateful public, shouldn’t be able to practice. -Well i think you’d better put down whatever pills you’ve been swallowing, and come back to reality. Medicine is a profession, and its filled with human beings, not saints or demons. Human beings who will choose their own well being over that of a potential enemy every time just as YOU would. And greedy lawyers, unscrupulous patients, and unwitting juries all over this country are increasingly causing doctors to view their patients as potential enemies.

        I don’t pick up hitchhikers anymore. 30 years ago i never passed one by. Not because I now view every person on the side of the road as a mass murderer trying to lure me to my death. But because i know that if i pick up everyone I see that looks harmless, my odds of regretting it at some point is almost a certainty in this new world we live in.
        Things have changed. I can remember when doctors were revered by their patients, in those days doctors did their best and patients hoped it would be enough. The word MAL-PRACTICE was almost unheard of. Now its on the mind of every single doctor in this country, every single day, along with the cost of skyrocketing insurance. The way the public views and treats doctors has changed and the way doctors view their patients is changing right along with it. Almost nobody picks up hitchhikers anymore, nobody is willing to risk martyring themselves just to play the good Samaritan in a world that will view them as stupid, and deserving of what they got if they pick up the wrong person.

        I can see the time coming soon when any doctor prescribing highly addictive drugs, (any serious pain med) will be thought of as just as stupid and deserving of what they got, by other doctors unwilling to become martyrs, to the new public sentiment. And as to your intimation that YOU would take such risks in their place, well son I’m just going to HAVE to cry bullshit on that one!

        -Lastly, if the criteria for practicing medicine in Maryland, includes the willingness to martyr your financial future to an ungrateful public, willing to hold you personally responsible for every case of drug abuse that results from your attempts to relieve your patients pain, -well i’d be looking to move -and soon. Because, your going to need a doctor sometime, and its going to be a LONG drive to get to one. Saints, and stupid doctors just aren’t that easy to find these days. -They never were.

  4. This may get me attacked but Im gonna give it a shot. Please remember that Im here for opinions. here goes –
    I am a cancer patient at a very large cancer center in FL – I have been treated in their palliative pain department for over 3 years due to pain caused from nerve damage in surgeries/lymphedema/ and a chronic pain condition of the lower extremities. I argued with my dr. about the constant increase in my pain meds – i did not want them to increase, but was told that was the only way to manage the pain I was in. After a few months, I relented. 3 years later, Im labeled a “stable” patient and released from the cancer center to find a community dr. I was told that since my cancer was now in remission and my pain under control, they needed to tend to more needy patients. OK. I could not find any “legal” doctor to see me for pain management. The ones i found were either asking for lots of $$$ up front (no thank you) or only helping patients with injections or spinal surgeries. I finally found a DR. who agreed to help me – ween off the pain meds only – because he did not want me to be forced to go cold turkey off the dosages i was on. Fine by me.
    Now that I am in the middle of this crazy tapering down and experiencing terrible withdrawals, its not ok. I dont want more pills. I want the person who I FEEL pushed me to this point to be forced to answer for this situation.
    My current DR. believes my pain is all neuropathic and does not – not did it ever- warrant the level of pain pills i was on.
    So heres where everyone gets mad at me….. Yes, Im saying this is 90% my original DR.’s fault. Im on disability and not able to see ANY dr. i want – I tried to reason with her to NOT increase the dosage. Did i end up taking the patch and pills prescribed? YES. But i was also told by the prescribing DR. that addiction would NOT be an issue. Tolerance, yes.. but specifically NOT ADDICTION. Its in her clinic notes, and I have copies of all of them.
    SO, do I have a right to sue? I dont know. But I want to. I also dont want to ruin a career – because I do know that this DR. is helping other cancer patients. I also cant help but wonder how many more are out there feeling like me.
    Im hoping that some of you other DR.’s will give me your own thoughts and feelings about this in a non-argumentative way.
    Thanks for the time.

    • If you sue your doctor and the “very large cancer center” for having prescribed you opioids for cancer pain, you may well make it that much tougher for any other cancer patient to get adequate pain relief.

      Suck it up, continue tapering down until you’re off the things, and thank god that that evil “very large cancer center” not only relieved your cancer pain when you had it but was able to cure you to the point of remission.

      You should be making the most of your second chance at life, instead you’re moaning and whining and living on welfare looking for even more “free money”, this time from those who cured you and relieved your pain. Goodness, in your situation I’d just be eager to taper off all meds as quickly as possible and GET ON WITH MY LIFE.

      P.S. Opioid tolerance and dependence are normal and expected physiological responses to continuous opioid therapy. Fixing a patient’s physical dependence on a opioid once there is no more need of it for pain relief is a simple matter of tapering down. Thousands of people who were lucky enough to survive cancer or other trauma do it every year, no dramas.

      Addiction is a dysfunctional psychological and behavioral syndrome. An addict would be taking opioids just to get high, not to relieve severe cancer pain. Most cancer patients who take opioids to relieve pain do not become addicts. They become physically dependent, yes, but they don’t turn into addicts.

      But really, don’t screw things up for all the other cancer patients out there just because for whatever reason, you don’t like coming off drugs you no longer clinically need.

      • Wow. Judgemental much?
        I happen to agree with your statement about there being a possibility for future cancer patients not getting the treatment they need if I was to take further action. But I wonder what exactly makes you assume that I am “living on welfare looking for even more “free money””? Ever consider that my cancer diagnosis wasn’t the only reason I am on disability? And really?? Did you read the post where I said I’m okay with coming off the meds? Its difficult, yes. But i have a choice every day to simply call up any unscrupulous doctor and get a prescription any time I want. I don’t do that. I’m sticking with the doctor who is weening me, because I believe it needs to be done. All you seem to have read was that I want more medicine, when I don’t.
        You have no idea what Im grateful for – and I’m not going to address that since that not what this topic was about.
        But you did make a very good point about how one persons actions could affect others who need the same type of care and treatment that I received. Too bad the rest of your response was an attack rather than more good ideas for me to ponder like that.

    • I became physically dependent because of having 4 surgeries in 2 years. 3 knee surgeries and 1 for appendix. My appendix wasn’t the usual way where it’s extreme pain for a day or two and taken, mine as slowly getting larger and painful for a month and a half before it was taken out. I was taking the medication for pain and even with tapering, it wasn’t working because I was so dependent for pain. I kept taking them to not deal with the withdrawal. I think pain medications are needed, but there aren’t enough safeguards. How come a doctor needs to prescribe 90 or 120 pills at a time. Some doctors are very conscience of pain medications and their effects, but we do need more safeguards. I never got high or hardly drank for that matter before my surgeries, but most people take them to not deal with the withdrawals. My point is there needs to be more safeguards in place.

  5. Lest we forget about the wives and families who have to sit back and watch their loved one disintegrate into nothing right in front of their eyes and not be able to do a thing about it. Maybe the doctor could just stop calling it in for a year after having seen that patient only one time in that year. Oh did I mention it was 120 pain killers a month with valium on top of that.

  6. What about this situation? I went searching for a doctor 5 years ago as an alternative to the methadone clinic. I had been a heroin addict. Once I found my doctor, I explained to him that is like to stay on methadone as it worked for me, but I did not want to go to a clinic every day as it was not convenient. I was making decent money at the time and could afford to pay his fees. His solution? Break California law (at my disease of addiction-addled mind’s request) and write me a script for methadone, and said “I’ll just write in that you have back pain.” Keep in kind this was a suboxone Dr. He went on to prescribe 40mg methadone daily, 30mg of diazepam daily, 60mg of adderall daily, 20mg of Celexa, then on top of that my own home injections of testosterone cypionate.

    I knew opiates had consequences, but the rest of these controlled meds? I had no idea what it would do to me mentally.

    This combination destroyed my life over the last 5 years. Am I to blame, in the diseased state of addiction, because I requested these drugs? I’m sure, to some degree. Is my Dr. to blame for over-medicating me then kicking me to the curb with multiple addictions that no doctor would ever care for – once everything fell apart financially (and everything else for that matter) for me 5 years later? He absolutely is, and I plan on suing him.

    • Jackie Bennett on

      Regardless of the naysayers reactions you receive, or dodge, I just want to say “I think your position on this, and specifically your situation, is 100% on point.”
      I’m sure you’ll receive quite a bit of opposition from people who haven’t experienced this type of thing, and just assume it’s a matter of justifying your own behavior, but I hope my little ‘atta boy (or girl)’ helps you get through some of the tough times you’ll face throughout your journey.
      It can be a tricky adventure -but IMO, you’re right to feel victimized to a certain extent. Best of Luck!
      – JB

  7. You all have failed to see one major issue – I for instance am a professional who has been successful for years;however do to sports was prescribed pain meds, that accidentally led to addiction… No I would not be interested in suing the initial doctors for the initial treatments; however, it is the so called rehab outpatient programs some which are very prestigious as the one I used. That first consultation led to this drug, that drug, to full blown high doses to the point if I stop I cannot work would essentially be hospitalized for a minimum a month, so you think those Doctors or places shouldn’t be sued? It has also led to extreme depression among other issues and I have never once abused my medication in treatment like the losers you speak of who take Methadone or other substances and try to mix to still get those old effects. If you all didn’t have your head in the sand you may understand. Unbelievable comments.

  8. It’s interesting that two old posts, both this and the “Drug Seekers Suck” post, should both have such evergreen popularity.

    One group damning physicians for not prescribing them the opioid analgesics they feel they need; the other group damning physicians for prescribing them the opioid analgesics they once claimed they needed.

    This is exactly why some describe prescribing opioids as a no-win situation.

    • Valid observation!!! Big time… as someone who survives with chronic pain it is ultimately and solely my responsibility to manage self control. And if I don’t I have no one to blame but myself. I’ve read stories and have watched documentaries about people and families blaming Doctors I absolutely do not agree unless a doctor ihas history and is “well aware” the patient has an addictive type personality or does not make the patient aware of the addictive risk to the meds.,which that does not happen! I lost a friend to an overdose six years ago,(a R.N. who knew better!!) never once did I entertain the thought the doctor was responsible, No disrespect to those who have addictions but I’ve gone to the E.D. for help in the past before my surgery where they were so kind as to give me a shot of Gods knows what,I don’t remember asking or caring. It absolutely relieved me of my pain but I feared and hated that feeling so much. Its hard for me to understand who would want to live with that scary feeling everyday all day long. Doctors intentions when giving us medicines is to help us, don’t let them be the scape goats to your weaknesses, if you get addicted its your fault and you know it your fault. Own it,be accountable and get help. Put blame where blame is due. I’m just saying…..

  9. There’s a simpler solution here but it comes with a double-edge depending on your doctor (as I will show you in my case):

    The doctors that prescribe for Chronic pain patients should only increase doses to a point, then when the current dose is not cutting it – they should perform a proper switch to a different opiod (different receptor) such that you can again be in a controlled status. This SHOULD be done as a transition, not a cold swap !!

    This is easy to calculate in terms of Morphine Equivalent Milligram Doses (aka – MME, MMD – there are plenty of free calculators out there) and the conversion is common in palliative and end of life care – it however is / was NOT common in non-cancer chronic pain patients, where it should be. This is how you get these results in the stories above of patients on abnormally high pill counts where they could have been switched from one med that was no longer controlling their pain to another that will (and there are enough different variants that they can continue this rotation as needed near – indefinitely in most patients).

    Now as a 10 yr chronic pain patient that was -very- stable until the last 8 months – I can speak to exactly the above process and the good/bad and ugly of it.

    I had to change pain mgmt. clinics as the clinic I was in decided to implement a ceiling in terms of MME dosing that they are allowed to prescribe and I happened to be right at their ceiling (again – stable patient here, no changes on my side for 9yrs and they are the ones that put me in that dosing and it worked well – I know I’m a bit of a freak of nature in this way but there are people like me that can stay stable and not need frequent increases, though we are edge cases).

    The only change was policy in the state/federal regulations that has the pain doctors running because stupid idiots sell their meds to kids on the street and the government can do only 1 thing well and that is to over-react… So now we have all the pain mgmt. docs leaving private practices and scared to prescribe, forced to prescribe new formulations that cost a fortune as that is what the DEA says they should do – instead of cheap generics (because everyone will abuse the generics…..).

    Now I find myself with a new doctor that is scared of the DEA – they have prosecuted tons of doctors at this point and this new doctor wants to do nothing but cover her butt. So she takes_me_off_the_meds_I’ve_been _stable_on_for_9_years ….. and switches me to 2x long-acting (12 hrs – yeah try 8..) “crush-resistant” (aka – take it 1.5 hrs before you need relief or your previous dose wears off – whatever comes first) pills with some reasonable break thru meds…

    What she did NOT DO – WEAN THE DOSE OF FENTANYL PATCHES DOWN FIRST…. This was a COLD SWITCH – and being a “legitimate patient” I never assumed a doctor would ever – ever do this without some significant discussion, the audacity of a doctor to do this – knowing the impact, and knowing I have a job and a family (twins and 3 older children) and that ALL of the discussion with this doctor was centered around NOT causing a negative impact to work / family life – is just impressive to say the least…

    This is where a “Pain Management” doctor should potentially be liable (your avg. doc should not – but those specially trained in this area have NO EXCUSE for this kind of mis-treatment of a patient with a solid history). This is all well documented, there is no valid excuse in forcing patients into withdrawl and destroying a weeks or more of their life (or their lives entirely in many cases) – the impact to your family and job are tremendous. It is exactly this kind of poor practice that leads people down the wrong path to things like heroin. I was fortunate and toughed it out (my wife was very supportive), having the new meds (though not effective enough to control my pain 24/7) was better than nothing but the withdrawal ..was ..terrible AND unnecessary.

    The doctor knew full well this would happen – there is no excuse and I will not let this slip. No one should. I like the comment regarding managing your own pain as a chronic pain pt however there is no amount of managing you can do when you span years and your body is used to something and then it goes away.. You may not be addicted mentally but your body will betray you in the end as I’m showing you – I never asked for an increase, I never misused my meds, I never sold them – I was stable for 9 years. I would not consider myself an addictive-personality either but your brain gets re-wired and this is a case that no one should ever have to face.

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