Prescribing contaminated steroid could mean trouble for doctors

Doctor and others in the medical field enjoy an almost universal level of trust and admiration. People respect their care providers' expertise.

But this level of trust can mean that patients put a lot of blind faith in their doctors, not questioning diagnoses, prescribed medications, their prognoses and more. In particular, the patient may not be well-informed about the potential side effects of specific drug or medication. Because of the complexity of the pharmaceutical industry, patients often rely on the doctor to evaluate their overall health and make the best decisions about which medications to use in their treatment. Despite the training and experience, doctors do make mistakes and these mistakes can have detrimental, if not actually dire, consequences for the patient.

Thousands of people who were injected with a preservative-free MPA steroid in the fall of 2012 are learning this lesson the hard way. Had the doctors or medical staff done more research, they may not have administered a steroid that contained harmful bacteria. Although fault may be shared between the manufacturer and the medical providers, the fact remains that the contaminated steroid killed 45 people and made hundreds very sick with fungal meningitis and other infections. The outbreak affected people all over the United States, including Georgia.

Facts about the contaminated steroid

The contaminated steroid was made at the New England Compounding Center, which declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2012 after many patients filed suit against the company. In an investigation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the product caused fungal meningitis, spinal infections and infection in joints where the injection was administered.

Potential liability of the manufacturer

It seems fairly straightforward to fault the New England Compounding Center for making a contaminated product . But because the center has filed for bankruptcy, it will be protected from lawsuits that are likely to result from the contamination. Instead, patients can choose to file suit against the doctors who prescribed the steroid.

Medical provider liability

Doctors have been found liable in similar situations in past lawsuits. Patients have successfully sued doctors claiming medical negligence and product liability. Both types of suits make sense, considering it is the doctor's duty to be sure that the medication given to a patient is safe.

In negligence cases against doctors, the argument is that the doctor breached the required standard of care simply because she or he knew or should have known that the makers of the product were not meeting their standards when making the medication.

Doctors can sometimes be considered "sellers" when they prescribe a product. Because of this, doctors can face product liability charges. Product liability claims seek to hold those involved in the product manufacturing and selling accountable for the damages that occurred because of the product.

A patient who has faced a drug-related illness or injury due to a faulty medication may be entitled to compensation. A medical malpractice attorney can assist the injured party in the determination of negligence, which may include the action or inaction of the attending physician and the medical facility as a whole.

Abstract: Many people could be filing lawsuits against their doctors after patients fell ill from a prescribed steroid that was contaminated by a manufacturing center in New England.