How Does a Lawsuit for a Wrongfully Prescribed Medication Work?

Courts may sometimes determine that medics wrongfully prescribed medication. In situations like these, physicians may be liable for damages, particularly if they did not complete sufficient accompanying paperwork. 

Prescribing Medications And The Law

In medical cases, the best defense for physicians is to provide patients with high-quality medical care. In the realm of prescribing medications, this means choosing medications tailored to the patient’s needs while taking precautions to minimize potential adverse side effects or interaction with other medications. 

Clinicians can protect themselves by searching databases of known drug-drug interactions and keep full patient medical histories. They should also record any discussions that they have with patients about possible interactions with other medications. However, they don’t always do this, potentially putting patients at risk. 

Liability For Wrongfully Prescribed Medications

In the legal arena, the issue of wrongfully prescribed medications falls under tort law – specifically professional negligence law. To find a physician guilty of professional negligence, courts must prove the “Four Ds” of medical malpractice. 

These are as follows: 

  • Duty: Courts must determine that the physician was indeed the person in charge of the patient’s care and not somebody else. The patient must have an established relationship with the medical professional. (This particular element of the Four Ds is only controversial when a patient seeks advice outside of a medical setting). 
  • Derelict: Patients bringing cases against medical professionals must then prove that the physician was “derelict” in his or her duties. Translating, this means that he or she didn’t carry out the standard of care required by state laws and guidelines. 
  • Direct: The prosecution must then prove that the medical professional’s dereliction caused direct harm to the patient. In other words, there should be a direct causal relationship between what the doctor did and the damages done to the patient. 
  • Damages: Lastly, the medical professional must have done some sort of compensable harm to the patient. Courts will not generally convict medical professionals of minor harm, such as causing patients low levels of discomfort or general inconvenience. 

If the courts determine that the prosecution’s case fulfills all these criteria, damages payouts to the patient are much more likely. Usually, insurance of medical professionals will cover these damages. 

What Patients Need To Know

Physicians can be held accountable for many types of medical malpractice. It’s critical, therefore, that patients understand their rights. 

Doctors should, for instance, be applying the highest standards of medical care whenever they treat patients. They must stay up to date with the latest clinical prescribing information from the US Food and Drug Administration. 

They must also keep accurate records of their prescribing practices. They should document how much medication they give their patients, the other drugs they are taking, and how long to take specific medication for. Informed consent discussions should always take place before receiving any drug. 

Patients, however, can sometimes find it hard to make a claim on their own because they lack certain technical knowledge. It is advisable, therefore, to use medical expert witness services to ensure that the claim is as robust as possible.