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Medicinal Malpractice: Why Attorneys Must Combat Overmedication

Garcia & Artigliere

Although designed to make patients well, medications can be lethal if not administered correctly. The tendency of nursing home workers to overmedicate their patients is thus a serious concern and must be swiftly dealt with by public authorities and nursing home abuse attorneys.

Misuse of Medications
Overmedication occurs when nursing home staff members administer dangerous drugs that their patients do not need. Antipsychotics, for example, are frequently prescribed to patients with a wide variety of conditions. Although these drugs can be effective at treating Alzheimer’s and other mental illnesses, they may cause infection and heart failure, and thus should not be prescribed lightly. However, nursing home staff will often prescribe such drugs for no reason other than to sedate unruly patients, risking their patients’ lives in order to make their jobs easier.

Nursing home abuse is often a symptom of broader problems with care facilities, such as a tendency to hire too few employees and assign excessive hours to them. Unable to deal with all of their assigned patients, a nursing home worker may sedate some of them in attempts to prolong required care. By hiring more staff, nursing homes can reduce the temptation for individual workers to abuse patients. Nursing home abuse attorneys must also make sure that abusive staff are held accountable and must demonstrate that overmedication of patients will not be tolerated.

Physician Prudence
While nursing home staff are not legally allowed to sedate their patients, they can obtain medications that have sedative effects if there is some other medical reason for doing so. They often obtain these medications by convincing doctors to prescribe them. Doctors must thus be trained to scrutinize reports from nursing home staff, watching out for signs of abuse and only prescribing medications that are clearly necessary.
Besides being misled by nursing staff, doctors often overmedicate a patient simply because they fail to communicate with other doctors who are treating the same patient. A patient may see several different doctors, each of whom treats a different condition. One doctor may prescribe a medication that is safe by itself, but which might be dangerous when taken in combination with others prescribed by different doctors. To prevent such potentially lethal mistakes, doctors must do a more diligent job of reviewing their patients’ medical histories and of contacting each other over shared patients.

Garcia, Artigliere, & Medby seek to ensure that all nursing home patients receive adequate, appropriate care. To learn more about combating nursing home abuse, visit our website today.


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