Vincent J. DeSalvo, Attorney at Law
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Are you a victim of patient abandonment by your pain doctor?

If you're seeing a pain doctor for chronic pain, are you in danger of being abandoned?

Unfortunately, you just might be at risk -- particularly if you receive Oxycontin or any other high-powered opioids. Those have come under increasing scrutiny by officials ever since the current national drug crisis began. Patients everywhere are reporting that their panicked doctors -- many of whom are afraid that they'll attract unwanted legal attention for having too many prescriptions out there -- are closing their doors or taking long-standing patients off their medications. In many cases, this is a disaster for patients.

Patients are frequently dismissed from pain clinics if they violate the terms of their agreements with the clinics. Violations include things like bouncing from one pharmacy to the next, failing to notify the pain clinic when a different doctor (like a dentist) gives them additional narcotics for temporary conditions, failing a random drug test or missing a randomly-ordered pill count. Others are being dismissed from practices for no visible reason whatsoever, except that they are on high doses of painkillers. They suspect they've become collateral damage in the new war on drugs.

When someone who uses pain medication regularly is dismissed abruptly from a practice, they may not be able to taper off their medication or wean themselves off the drug before they run out -- which can create serious health problems. Withdrawal symptoms can be very taxing on a person's body and some patients aren't able to withstand them. Seizures and difficulty breathing are common. Patients may end up in the hospital.

Unfortunately, discharging a patient for any reason short of discrimination is legal. However, doctors are not permitted to actually abandon a patient -- that's a form of medical malpractice. Patients should be given ongoing care for a limited time so that they have time to find another provider. They should also be given assistance locating another pain clinic. Doctors who "prescribe and run," leaving patients that are now chemically-dependent on narcotics to suffer, can and should be held responsible for their actions.

Source: Pain News Network, "Opioid Hysteria Leading to Patient Abandonment," Pat Anson, March 28, 2018

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