We know that pain pills like opioids can be highly addictive. For some patients, these medications provide valuable pain relief while they heal from extreme surgical procedures or serious injuries. For others, this treatment can evolve into an addiction. We expect our physicians to navigate this balance, to use these medications only to help and to aid patients who are teetering towards addiction.
We do not expect our physicians to encourage opioid use for their own financial gain.
So what happens when this is the case? When a physician clearly abuses their medical authority and provides prescriptions to addicted patients for their own financial gain? What happens when that patient dies as a result of this addiction?
These questions were recently discussed in the case of a physician who met patients in parking lots and would give prescription for pain medications — often without conducting examinations. Five of these patients died due to opioid addictions.
The district attorney filed criminal charges against the physician, stating he was “a serial killer” and calling on the court system to hold him accountable for his actions. The physician now faces five counts of murder and 11 of reckless endangerment.
Unfortunately, this story is not unique. In 2020 there were at least 50 different drug-related criminal charges against physicians that were moving through the court system.
What can families who have lost loved ones to opioid addiction learn from this case?
You are not alone. If you believe a physician played a role in enabling your loved one’s addiction you can hold that individual accountable for their wrongdoing. Criminal charges are just one option. Civil cases can go a step further and make sure those who are directly impacted by that physician’s actions receive compensation to help cover the expenses associated with the loss of their loved one. It can also serve as an additional deterrent, encouraging that physician and others in similar positions to focus on their patient’s health not their own potential for monetary gain.