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The Unintended Consequences of Hospitals’ Approach to the Opioid Crisis

June 25th, 2018
By Zach Christiansen of The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm, A Professional Law Corporation on Monday, June 25, 2018.

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana. In recent weeks and months we’ve heard much about the opioid crisis and opioid overdoses. According to , research suggests that hospital interventions for patients who are hospitalized for overdoses may be lacking. 33,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2015. Some of these patients may have visited the hospital before their deadly overdose. According to NPR, hospitals may not be taking sufficient steps or interventions when overdose patients end up in the emergency room. Despite the fact that patients who have overdosed may have difficulty filling opioid prescriptions in the future, the study revealed that few of these patients may have been offered medication-based treatment that could help them.

The knee-jerk way that many communities and hospitals have approached handling the opioid crisis is by reducing access to opioids. While this is certainly one approach, it has had some serious unintended consequences. According to WebMD, the restrictions on opioid drugs has left some hospitals facing shortages, meaning that doctors cannot provide proper pain medication treatment to patients. Some hospitals have low supplies of injectable opioids and steroids. As many as 98% of anesthesiologists say they have run short on drugs that they need for patients.

Who ends up suffering when these medicines are in short supply? Pregnant women in labor. According to WebMD many hospitals don’t have the medication they need to reduce a woman’s pain during a C-section. One hospital even admitted to rationing the drug. When hospitals run low, women have the choice of suffering the pain or being put to sleep during their delivery, which changes the experience dramatically.

Were you put to sleep during your C-section? Was your hospital’s pain medication supplies low? Hospitals may not always admit these shortages to patients. After all, a shortage can affect a patient’s care. This goes beyond a pain issue. Pain can be psychologically damaging. It can increase a patient’s stress, which can put them at risk of added complications.

Anesthesiologists have admitted to having had to use older medications with more side effects.

It appears that restricting opioid access isn’t enough. Doctors and the medical community need to consider the whole person when treating addiction. Restricting opioids fails to account for the psychological and physiological changes individuals experience when they are addicted to these drugs. Opioid addiction has a real impact on the brains of those who are addicted, affecting their ability to plan ahead or to seek treatment.

Could the current shortage be seen as a medical malpractice concern? If doctors aren’t able to provide the proper standard of care, patients might be able to seek compensation for any injuries that arise. Addiction patients may also have the right to seek damages if a hospital fails to offer proper treatment to a person who has overdosed. The The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm are New Orleans, Louisiana medical malpractice lawyers who work with patients who have been hurt. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to a doctor’s negligence or neglect, contact us today. You may have certain rights under the law. Visit us at to learn more.

The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm, A Professional Law Corporation

1615 Poydras Street, Suite 1050

New Orleans, Louisiana, 70112

Phone: (504) 586-5200

Toll Free: (504) 586-5200

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