June 12, 2019

New Michigan Law Allows Patients to Refuse Opioids

The over-prescription and overuse of opioids, pushed by doctors and the pharmaceutical industry as a solution to chronic pain for years, has officially led to a crisis across the nation. Termed the “opioid crisis,” people of all ages, incomes, and professions have found themselves hooked on the extremely strong painkillers. The best medical malpractice lawyers in Michigan can help you decide if medical malpractice or negligence led to yours or your loved one’s addiction to opioids.

One of the most common problems that has led to the opioid crisis is over-prescribing of medications. Doctors who over-prescribe in quantity or length of use have contributed to this problem. Studies show that long-term use of opioids, especially in post-operative cases, contributes significantly to the development of opioid addiction.

The opioid-heroin connection

While marijuana and alcohol have long been called “gateway drugs,” the evidence for their connection to opioids and heroin has been very scarce and usually tainted by other factors, including predisposition to addictive behaviors and self-medication.

Opioids, on the other hand, have been definitively linked to the rise in heroin users. Opioids prescribed in large quantities for chronic pain or post-operative procedures have been shown to create a physical and emotional dependence on their effects. Once addicted, patients often need larger quantities of the medication to achieve results, whether that be perceived pain reduction or achieving a high.

When the pain medication runs out, it becomes increasingly difficult to obtain, especially once a doctor refuses to prescribe anymore. Obtaining illegal pain medications is extremely expensive, and patients quickly run out of money. Conversely, heroin is a much cheaper option, and the user can achieve the same “high” feeling.

Many police departments and drug addiction centers are now seeing young people start with pills and jump to heroin more quickly. Prescription opioid painkillers indeed have become the “gateway drug” to heroin.

Heroin, because it’s often cut with other, more powerful drugs, including fentanyl, can result in accidental overdoses leading to brain damage and/or death. Opioid pill overdoses have increased so that now, on average, 46 people die every day from prescription opioids.

New opioid law in Michigan

While patients have always had the right to decline opioids in the past as a recommended course for treating post-operative or chronic pain, the new law in Michigan is designed to open up discussions between patients and their doctors about the uses and dangers of opioid painkillers. Not only does this law cover patients who can give their consent, but their wishes can also be placed into their medical directive files alongside D0 Not Resuscitate and long-term life support orders. Violations of these orders can be handled by a medical attorney, especially if side effects or addiction occur as a result of these ignored wishes.

The law comes following a devastating study by the University of Michigan, which found that in 2016, Michigan had the 14th-highest overdose rate in the United States. Only one-third of the counties in Michigan had access to treatment options.

By law, doctors prescribing more than three days of prescription opioid painkillers must:

  • Look for the patient in the Michigan Mandatory Automated Prescription System (MAPS) to ensure that the patient is not “prescription shopping”
  • May not prescribe opioids for more than seven days for acute pain
  • Establish a bona fide prescriber-patient relationship, and provide follow-up monitoring of the patient once they have been prescribed painkillers

Prescribers must report all prescriptions to MAPS. They must also provide information to patients or the guardians of minors about:

  • The dangers of opioid use and addiction
  • How to properly dispose of unused pills
  • The effects of opioids on pregnant patients and their fetuses
  • The legal ramifications of delivering a controlled substance without appropriate medical supervision and permission

If your doctor has not followed these steps when providing you with a prescription for opioid painkillers, it’s time to seek out the advice of the best medical malpractice lawyers in Michigan to discuss the options for your case.

Final thoughts

The changes made to the prescription opioid system will hopefully encourage more discussions of the very real dangers of opioid use to patients. It also limits doctors on how many pills they can prescribe and cuts down on “doctor-shopping.” By requiring doctors to report their opioid prescriptions in MAPS, it also limits the number of doctors who will write prescriptions illegally for monetary gain.

Contact us

If you are looking for malpractice lawyers to help with your opioid-related case, Eileen Kroll is both a registered nurse and an attorney. She will use her broad knowledge of the medical and legal systems to help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a no obligation case evaluation at 1-866-MICH-LAW (1-866-642-4529).

Ms. Barry is studying Communications at the University of Pennsylvania. She has won multiple awards both for her persuasive and creative writing and has written extensively on the topics of medical malpractice law, personal and birth injury law, product liability law. When she’s not researching and writing about these topics, she edits a literary magazine and tutors students at Penn’s writing center.

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