What duties does a hospital have in treating an overdosing patient?
Recently, the family members of singer Prince filed a lawsuit against the Illinois hospital that treated him for an opioid overdose just a week before his death. Prince’s family claims that the singer received inadequate medical care when he entered the hospital after making an emergency landing in Moline, Illinois. The medical malpractice lawsuit alleges that the failure of the hospital to properly treat Prince was a direct cause of his fatal overdose one week later.
Facts of the Case
Celebrity Prince was admitted to the hospital on April 15 of 2016. He was experiencing an overdose on what he believed to be Vicodin. Investigations later revealed that the black market pills contained fentanyl, which is an extremely strong opioid. Prince was brought into the hospital barely breathing. The hospital had to administer two shots of Narcan to revive him.
Prince was said to have refused all testing while in the hospital, no doubt out of concern that findings would be leaked to the public. Prince stated that he had taken two Percocet. While the treating doctor had doubts that this amount could have caused his symptoms, further investigations into the pills were not made.
One week later, Prince took an unknown quantity of painkillers that likely matched those that he had already overdosed on in Illinois. Tragically, this dose killed Prince. Investigations revealed that the pills, resembling Vicodin, were counterfeit. Police declined to prosecute anyone in the matter.
A Hospital’s Duty to Overdose Patients
Prince’s family believes that he should have received more care than administration of Narcan. They believe the hospital should have investigated the cause of the overdose and required Prince to undergo proper counseling. Had the pills been investigated and their true contents revealed, Prince may not have taken them a week later and died.
The case brings up some interesting questions as to what precisely is a hospital’s duty when treating patients who overdose. As of now, there is no requirement to force hospital patients to undergo counseling, but most hospitals at least offer these services. Some hospitals have now employed recovery coaches, who follow up with patients once they leave the hospital to help them stay clean. Medical professionals will no doubt follow Prince’s case and perhaps reassess their own actions towards overdosing patients in the future.