Chronic Pain & Medical Liability In Florida
Data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 21 percent of U.S. adults live with chronic pain as of 2021. While chronic pain seems to have a higher percentage among certain demographics – for example, among those who were once employed but no longer, and those with public health insurance – these disparities can generally be explained by a lack of adequate treatment for said pain. Too often, doctors are simply unsure how to treat chronic pain, and if they fail to take the appropriate steps, it can lead to injury or even death for the patient.
Is It Malpractice?
The treatment of chronic illnesses and pain can be complex and time-consuming, and not every medical professional may have the ability to properly treat conditions that cause it. There is a baseline level of care that every patient should be able to expect: in Florida, the “prevailing professional standard” of care is the standard of “care, skill, and treatment” seen as appropriate by “reasonably prudent,” similarly situated healthcare professionals.
It is true that some people may simply be drug-seeking or have other issues at play – but a doctor who refuses to treat a patient’s pain or any related complaints based solely on bias or unfounded suspicion potentially opens themselves up to a lawsuit. A medical professional has a legal and ethical duty to provide at least that baseline level of care, and a failure to do so – plus tangible injuries to the patient – is a prima facie case for civil liability.
Is There A “Prevailing Standard Of Care?”
That said, there is an argument to be made that there is no real “prevailing professional standard” of care for chronic pain patients, because of the wide variety of experiences that a chronic pain patient may have based on factors outside their control. One doctor may assess a patient and choose to do nothing because they suspect a patient of drug seeking; another doctor might assess a similarly situated patient and order tests. Determining what a “similarly situated” medical professional might do can be difficult.
It can be hard to know whether to file suit against your doctor because you may believe that no doctor would believe in your pain, or you may fear that any complaint would result only in a slap on the wrist. It is still worth it to try, and there is some precedent which provides legal backing to a physician’s ethical duty to relieve suffering – for example, a case where a failure to administer pain management due to fears of addiction constituted a “gross departure” from the standard of care. You have the right to be heard.
Contact A Winter Park Medical Malpractice Attorney
If a doctor fails to take your chronic pain seriously, it can lead to untreated illnesses and potentially serious issues. A Winter Park medical malpractice attorney from the Hornsby Law Group can help you figure out your best option from here. We can offer compassionate and knowledgeable representation. Contact our office today for a free consultation.