How bad is the opioid crisis here in Indiana and Illinois? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that:
- Illinois has jumped 33% in the number of pain medication overdose deaths in 2017 alone; and
- Indiana has seen an increase of 28% in the same time period.
See the CDC’s “PROVISIONAL COUNTS OF DRUG OVERDOSE DEATHS, as of 8/6/2017.”
Every single day in this country, over a THOUSAND people are treated in emergency rooms because they have misused opioid prescription pain medications. Some of them survive; some don’t.
For more, read our earlier discussion in:
- Doctors Are Writing Prescriptions for Pain Killers That Are Resulting In Overdoses: CDC Reports Physicians Are Supplying The Overdose Opioids.
- Prescription Drugs & Antibiotics, Antidepressants, Pain Relief Pills Prescribed by Doctors Are Hurting People.
- Prescription Painkiller Medication Killing Women in Epidemic Proportions Reports Centers for Disease Control While 80% of World Pain Meds Taken by Americans.
Government Response to Pain Prescription Overdose Crisis
Both the federal government and lawmakers in Indiana and Illinois are fighting against this dangerous reality.
1. Federal Government: Opioid Crisis Recognized as an “Emergency”
On October 26, 2017, the President declared the opioid crisis a “public health emergency.” One key fact cited by the White House:
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of injury death in the United States, outnumbering both traffic crashes and gun-related deaths.
As a result, several federal agencies will be focused on ways to curtail the widespread drug overdose problem including the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Justice Department. The FBI will be launching criminal investigations into opioid manufacturers and distributors.
2. 2017 Indiana Legislation to Combat Opioid Crisis
This fall, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed several bills into law that address this crisis. The new Indiana laws do several things, from expanding available treatment to creating mobile treatment units to serve our rural areas.
3. 2017 State of Illinois Action Plan
In September, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner introduced the “State of Illinois Opioid Action Plan,” which is detailed in a 53-page document available online. The Plan includes a goal of decreasing the number of opioid deaths in the State of Illinois by 33% in three years.
4. Lawsuits against the Drug Makers
Additionally, various governmental entities are filing lawsuits against the drug companies that manufacture these opioids. One of the first lawsuits seeking damages from the drug makers originated out of St. Clair County, Illinois.
By mid-November 2017, over 100 states, cities, and counties had filed lawsuits seeking monetary damages from the various drug manufacturers of prescribed pain medications.
See, “The Opioid Files: More Than 100 States and Cities Are Suing Drug Companies,” written by Mattie Quinn and published by Governing on November 13, 2017.
Drug Overdose Lawsuits by the Victims and Their Families
The lawsuits filed by the cities, counties, and states seek money to reimburse their coffers for things like expanded medical treatment expenses caused by the rising number of opioid overdoses. Their awards will not compensate individual victims.
What about the individual victim and their loved ones? Do they have a legal route to justice here? Yes.
Pain medication overdose can form the basis of a successful personal injury lawsuit or wrongful death case if it can be demonstrated with admissible evidence that there has been medical malpractice on the part of the doctor who prescribed the pain medication.
This can also be a lawsuit against a hospital or pain clinic that administered or prescribed opioids to the victim.
It is known that these powerful drugs are to be monitored carefully by health care professionals. Opioids available only by prescription can cause a rapid drop in breathing where the victim goes into respiratory arrest. The victim can stop breathing and die if left untreated. This is the main cause of death from opioid overdoses.
Accordingly, doctors should not prescribe these powerful pain medications without good reason and without proper monitoring of their patient while they are taking the opioid. Errors that form the basis of malpractice claims can be based upon the (1) prescription itself or (2) the failure to properly monitor after the pain medication has been prescribed.
Each Opioid Case Is Unique
Deaths caused by pain medication overdoses are so tragic. They are entirely preventable and if the professionals responsible for the victim’s care and treatment failed in their duty of care, then they are held liable under the law for what has happened.
Each situation must be investigated and analyzed on its own terms. Medical malpractice cases are complex webs of law and fact, involving legal and medical considerations. Additionally, the approaches taken by Indiana law and Illinois medical malpractice statutes are not the same.
As more and more people perish in pain medication overdoses, we will see more and more civil lawsuits filed against those responsible for prescribing the opioids. Criminal cases are already making news against doctors and pain clinics in criminal opioid litigation. See, e.g., “Doctors increasingly face charges for patient overdoses,” written by Michael Nedelman and published by CNN on July 31, 2017.
For more on medical malpractice lawsuits, see:
- Medical Malpractice in Illinois 2016: When Health Care Mistakes Hurt or Kill the Patient
- Medical Malpractice in Indiana 2016: When Doctors Make Mistakes and People Are Hurt or Killed
- Indiana Doctors Face Loss of Medical Licenses From Attorney General Actions: Wagoner Clinic Doctors Face Suspension Over Pain Meds.
Justice will prevail. Let’s be careful out there!