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Medical Malpractice and Chronic Pain

Red PillsIn America, pain as a symptom is seen as something temporary. But for many, it simply is not. Roughly 100 million Americans deal with chronic pain conditions, with the number thought to equal 1.5 billion people worldwide. However, while pain medication can be a lifesaver for many, allowing them to have some semblance of a normal life, it can also lead to dangerous and harmful addiction. It is only recently that over-prescription of painkillers has begun to be characterized as malpractice in the United States.

Pain Medication as Palliative

Despite the advances made in medical science over the last few decades, patients are sometimes presented with pain that either cannot be explained or cannot be treated. While in some instances, the only thing to do is treat the pain, by interacting with patients in a dedicated pain clinic, for example, on other occasions, doctors simply default to prescribing pain medication without a sufficient examination of any possible underlying causes. This can amount to negligent conduct in the right circumstances. If the prevailing standard of medical care is not maintained, the doctor will likely face some liability.

For example, if a patient comes to a doctor with symptoms of severe lower abdominal pain, chills, gastrointestinal distress and fever, and a doctor conducts no tests, but prescribes pain medication, that doctor could arguably be characterized as negligent if the patient later requires surgery for a ruptured appendix. This is because a reasonable doctor of similar age, experience and talent would almost certainly have run tests to determine a diagnosis instead of simply treating the attendant pain. This is the standard of care, and by not conforming to it, the patient's doctor is liable if the patient can show harm.

Malpractice Liability for Addiction

Given the prevalence of pain medication as a temporary stopgap of sorts, it is perhaps unsurprising that the rate of addiction in America has increased over time - up to approximately two million people who classify themselves as addicted to painkillers - and so have the negative consequences associated with addiction. Emergency room visits and overdose deaths have also increased since 1999, with the death rate from unintentional overdoses quadrupling during the same time period.

While many of these addictions can certainly be traced to legally and appropriately obtained painkillers, there are certain situations in which doctors can and do bear liability. A doctor must, for example, explain the degree of risk associated with taking opioid painkillers to the patient. If he does not, that could constitute negligence. Another common situation in which doctors incur liability is if they prescribe an unconscionable amount - a few extra pills in case of emergency might be reasonable, but prescribing double or triple the amount recommended signifies a lack of interest in the consequences of one’s actions.

An Experienced Malpractice Attorney May Be Necessary

Chronic pain is still somewhat of an afterthought in many minds, with many assuming that if pain is not cured, it is somehow the patient’s fault. But malpractice does happen, and if you are victimized, it can be a difficult process to navigate alone. The passionate San Jose medical malpractice attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. know that living with chronic pain is difficult enough - you trust doctors to help you, not to allow your condition to worsen. We will fight for you. Call us today to set up a free initial appointment. We serve San Jose, the Bay Area, and the counties of Alameda, Monterey, Santa Clara, San Benito, and San Mateo.

Client Reviews
My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.