Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Misdiagnosis leads hospice patient into drug addiction

A hospice patient for Pennsylvania was told that he had 6-months to live back in 2007, was prescribed with heavy doses of highly addicting painkillers, and then lived for five more years. In the meantime, the patient suffered from depression and drug addiction which left him begging for drugs from a number of doctors. The man finally died in August at the age of 52 after being removed from hospice some 32-months ago.

The doctor's diagnosis (or misdiagnosis) in this situation concerning the patient's condition was completely wrong. "This is a hospice case that spiraled out of control," one of his treating doctor's had said. This was a patient that "clearly wasn't dying" while in hospice and instead needed drug rehabilitation and cardiac care.

What this shows is that admissions practices concerning hospice care are often lax, and that those performing such care are often too free with the dispensing of painkillers as an easy solution to the patient's pain. Though hospice is designed only for those that are believed to have 180-days or less to live, such diagnosis is often faulty. It has been suggested by federal prosecutors that increased revenues by having additional enrollees in the program may in part play a role in some patients so easily being admitted to hospice.

Medical misdiagnosis can cause suffering in a number of ways. Though the above circumstance could be deemed unusual, patients wrongly prescribed wrongful narcotics that leads to drug dependency is all too common. Victims of such misdiagnosis have been severely and sometimes permanently harmed because others have failed in their duty of care.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, "Hospice Turns Months-to-Live Patient Into Years of Abusing Drugs," by Peter Waldman, Jan. 9, 2012

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