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Medicolegal matters

When helping harms: prescribing pitfalls in chronic noncancer pain

Naomi Lewis, USHMA NARSAI

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© alexaphotoua/stock.adobe.com

Abstract

This series highlights common medicolegal issues in general practice. Written by a team from medical defence organisation Avant, it is based on actual cases with details changed for privacy and some issues summarised for discussion. This case scenario of a woman who died of multiple drug toxicity involving prescription medications highlights the dangers of inappropriate prescribing to treat chronic noncancer pain. 

‘His medical practitioners did harm where they had only ever wanted to treat him for his known medical difficulties.' 

Western Australian Deputy State Coroner Evelyn Vicker

Article Extract

The role of prescription medication in unintentional deaths has been considered at several recent inquests. The ­accidental death of any patient is tragic for the individual and their loved ones and distressing for practitioners involved in their care. It may also have medicolegal implications, leading to civil proceedings, a complaint to a professional body or even a criminal investigation. A coronial investigation may require a practitioner to give evidence at a public inquest, an experience that most doctors find confronting.

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© alexaphotoua/stock.adobe.com