When Your Medical Professional Steals Your Pain Medication

When you're in pain, the last thing you expect is the medical professionals caring for you to short your pain medication in order to feed their own drug addiction—unfortunately, this happens more often than many people realize. This is what you should know about "drug diversion" involving painkillers—and what you can do if it happens to you.

The most vulnerable are the ones likely to suffer.

The most likely victims of prescription drug theft are people who are simply too ill to realize what is happening to them—which means that medical professionals desperate to feed their own addictions are likely to target the elderly, patients in surgery, patients who have recently had surgery, and those in critical or acute conditions. For example, a woman suffering from an ectopic pregnancy was left in agonizing pain for an hour after an EMT stole her pain medication for himself and only pretended to give it to her.

Victims can also suffer from related injuries.

Unnecessary pain may be only part of what victims have to suffer as the result of a drug diversion. A lot of high-powered painkillers end up being administered to the sickest patients through IVs. In theory, IV pain medication should be harder to steal than pills. However, there have been cases like that in a Minnesota hospital where a nurse actually stole the liquid drugs right out of IV bags. Worse, the nurse contaminated at least 24 patients with bacteria when he opened their bags, causing some to develop blood infections as a result.

Liquid pain medication is also administered via syringe, but those are also vulnerable to theft in the hands of medical professionals who are addicted to drugs. For example, a surgical tech in Colorado injected herself, not her patients, with the painkiller fentanyl. Because she refilled the syringes with saline solutions to hide her thefts, patients were then injected with dirty needles. Not only did they end up suffering from unnecessary pain, at least 18 patients also contracted hepatitis C from the dirty needles.

The hospital or facility may be liable for your suffering and injuries.

Whether or not you have a strong case against the medical facility or hospital for your suffering and injuries will depend a lot on the circumstances. Several things could indicate that a medical facility was negligent, putting patients at risk in an unreasonable way:

  • The employee that took the painkillers has a previous history of drug addiction or drug theft.

  • There were no screening processes to keep employees with a drug addiction away from pain medication.

  • The facility didn't have appropriate procedures in place to track painkiller usage and discourage thefts.

  • Drugs had been diverted from patients in the past at that facility.

  • The policy on how to report suspected drug diversion isn't clearly developed or wasn't explained to employees.

If you've suffered as the result of painkiller theft or "drug diversion," talk to an attorney from a law office like Eric J. Moore Company, Attorneys At Law about whether or not the hospital or medical facility should bear some of the responsibility for what happened.