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Can a doctor cut a patient off of Pain Medication (opiates) cold turkey?

Cottonwood, AZ |

My daughter lived in MA. worked for a resort. She got a hernia from lifting a dresser. She was given surgery, but the mesh they had put in had dis-attached its self. Went back in for surgery. This time they cut her colon in 3 places & bruised her liver! She has moved back to Arizona, she had a primary care Doctor. Dr. Stonecipher.
Dr. Stonecipher was in a medical group in our town, that filed for bankruptcy. He then went to Rimrock Az. to a new medical group, who has told him they cannot treat my daughter. (They don't accept out of state Workers compensation) The problem is my daughter is on some heavy pain medication & they are leaving her high & dry!! They employ a med. asst. who thinks she can offer her opinion on my daughters care???

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Attorney answers 2


Medical providers, like doctors and their medical staff, are held to a standard of care. When they fall below that standard of care and cause injury, they may be subject to liability for medical malpractice.

Here, you didn't mention whether your daughter was injured by the cold turkey withdrawl. Some patients take such a high dose of narcotics that it can be dangerous to make them withdraw without prescribing other necessary medication or by allowing them to wean off according to some prescribed schedule. If a patient sustains injury due to a negligent order to cut off the patients narcotics prescription, the doctor could be liable for malpractice.

But, the question is one of reasonableness. If the doctor cuts the patient off and it is considered reasonable to do so, then the doctor is not negligent.

Further, the patient's injury needs to be relatively significant for a medical malpractice case to be worth pursuing because the cost of prosecuting such a case is expensive.

Your daughter's best bet is to communicate her concerns to her doctor, seek a second opinion if possible, go to the ER if necessary, and if your daughter suffers some significant complication from the withdrawl, contact a medical malpractice attorney, although, it's unlikely she will find a lawyer to take her case.

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Without knowing all the details, the critical inquiries appear to be (1) whether it is acceptable practice for the physician to stop the pain medications cold turkey (i'm assuming the medication is an opiate); and (2) whether your daughter suffered any damages as a result of the cessation of the pain medications. Both would need to be proven in order to have a potential claim.

On its face, this seems to be a situation best handled by communication with the physician or even a second opinion.

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