Can a drug addiction resulting from prescribed medication be malpractice?

If a patient becomes addicted to pain killers that have been prescribed by a physician, they may have a cause of action for medical malpractice. But the validity of a legal claim may depend on whether the doctor was negligent in some way. 

It May Be Malpractice if the Doctor Was Negligent

Doctors cannot possibly be held accountable for every adverse reaction to treatment and every negative result of the actions they take for their patients. As a result, there is a standard used to determine whether a doctor is guilty of medical malpractice or not. This is known as a negligent professional standard. To determine if a doctor is negligent:

  • The doctor's behavior is compared to the behavior of a reasonable physician with a similar specialty and educational background.
  • If the doctor did something, or failed to do something, that no reasonable doctor would have done, then he can be considered to have breached the standard of care he owes to his patients.
  • A breach of the standard is considered to be legally negligent. 

Once negligence has been proven, the patient also must prove that the doctor's negligence was a direct or proximate cause of the injury sustained. 

What Is Required to Prove Negligence?

For a doctor to be found guilty of malpractice for pain killer addiction, his negligence must have led to the addiction in some way. For example, if the doctor prescribed pain killers to a known addict who clearly did not need the pain killers, this may be considered negligence.

If the doctor failed to warn a patient of the addictive properties of pain killers, this too may be viewed as negligent. On the other hand, if the doctor prescribed pain killers to a patient in great pain and he clearly explained the risks, then he may not be legally liable for any resulting addiction.