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Legislation May Allow Staff to Provide Painkillers without Prescriptions

Garcia & Artigliere

Newly proposed legislation could soon allow nurses in nursing homes to administer controlled substance painkillers to residents when acting on a physician’s verbal orders.

The legislation comes despite increasing numbers of nursing home residents who have been killed because of poorly administered, or over-administered, painkillers.

Loudly condemned by the American Health Care Association, the bill would negate painkiller-dispensing regulations enforced by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency under the Controlled Substances Act, and completely bypass existent painkiller administration laws.

Currently, doctors must submit prescriptions for controlled painkillers in writing before they can be dispensed. If the new legislation passes, doctors would be allowed to telephone nurses in nursing homes and prescribe painkillers over the telephone. This would mean that there would be little written documentation of the doctor’s orders.

Coming on the heels of investigations into record falsification and modification at nursing homes throughout the United States, the legislation has the potential to further contribute to the abuse or to medical malpractice in many long-term care facilities.

If you believe that your loved one is being abused by nursing home staff who are over- or under-medicating them, you can look for signs of medication abuse. Signs may include:

  • Unusual weight loss, malnutrition, or dehydration
  • Untreated or unexplained medical problems, such as bedsores (also known as pressure sores)
  • Unexplained mood swings
  • The nursing home staff cannot adequately explain your loved one’s physical or mental conditions.
  • The nursing home staff suggests vague symptoms you haven’t noticed or heard of as a way to administer more medication
  • The nursing home administration insists on medication over all other treatment options
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