Overdose! What's Your Liability?

Author: Jennifer Bolen

Practitioners need to understand that there are steps that they should be taking to minimize the potential of a bad legal outcome in the event of an investigation involving an overdose.

The liability for an overdose event tracks back to the practitioner’s adherence to licensing board requirements and basically following what a reasonably prudent practitioner would do in the same or similar circumstance.  Practitioners really need to understand what their licensing board wants them to write down and then try very hard to follow that and make sure that they’re educating their patients. A lot of times, the liability comes from doing nothing after they learn of an overdose. Instead, they need to be proactive. When they learn of the overdose, they need to basically preserve the chart.  They should not go back into it and immediately try to figure out what went wrong.  They’re probably going to have to involve legal counsel at some point because there are going to be steps that are necessary—corrective actions. perhaps— to make sure that risk evaluation and monitoring is well understood.  You want practitioners to really go through and examine their charts and to look at how they’re documenting their patient risk and evaluation and prescribing rationale for why they’re giving the opioid; why they’re giving the opioid in the amount that they are. You want that protection so that that can’t be used against you down the road.

I think that practitioners should prepare for more requirements from medical licensing boards that they report to a database relative to their overdose events in their practice.  Arizona, for example, is already requiring physicians to report an overdose event to a state database.  I think that’s going to continue to grow across the country.  It’s probably a good thing in the long run and it will lead to physicians being notified much earlier and being able to take corrective action where necessary.

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