More people than ever have to attend Methadone Clinics to deal with their addiction and substatnce abuse issues. Opiate dependence and substance abuse issues are very real, and very costly on so many levels. They threaten to bottom out health care spending, take emotional tolls on families, loved ones and friends; and ruin lives. Methadone Clinics are just one of the ways which Ontario is trying to deal with these problems. It will take a multi disciplinary approach to get a handle on addiction and substance abuse issues. But there can be no dispute that they are serious issues which our government and health care system are working very hard to resolve.
The focus of this edition of the Toronto Injury Lawyer Blog will be to examine what happens when there has been a prescription overdose; or a dispensing error at a Methadone Clinic in Ontario, or at a Pharmacy in Ontario. These cases are becoming more common with the increasing number of people who are prescribed and dependent on methadone to manage their problems. Pharmaceutical negligence and dispensing errors are not uncommon and can cause serious, life changing damages for which innocent claimants deserve fair compensation for their losses.
Step 1: Recognize the dispensing error and get help ASAP! A common methadone dispensing error looks a little like this. You have been prescribed 5ml of methadone, but the pharmacy misreads and accidentally dispenses 50ml of methadone. Or perhaps your carry home prescription ought to have been a concentration of 10ml of methadone, but instead it was a concentration of 100ml of methadone. If ingested, the overdose of the methadone could be deadly or cause serious injury. Call 911 or rush to hospital right away. This is no joke. The personal injury lawyers can clear up the legal mess after you’ve received the medical treatment you need to get better.
Step 2: Save all the paperwork you can! Save the prescription. Save the bottle. Save any paperwork you received from the clinic or pharmacy. Hold on to what you can as it will all serve as evidence for the dispensing error or negligence case. It will all be useful and helpful to your personal injury lawyer.
Step 3: Report the overdose or dispensing error to the Ontario College of Pharmacists. The Ontario College of Pharmacists is the regulatory body which oversees and regulates all pharmacists in Ontario. You cannot dispense medication without being regulated by the College. If a pharmacist does something wrong, or makes a mistake, it’s important for the College to know to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. The College is there to protect the public. Making a complaint or reporting a dispensing error to the College is easy and does NOT require the assistance of a personal injury lawyer. The complaint form is online and can be found here.
The College has investigatory powers that personal injury lawyers simply don’t have. Their investigations can be more thorough and complete based on their regulatory power and oversight. What the College wants, they eventually get. In the event that the College finds that the Pharmacist wronged a patient, it does NOT mean that the patient will get compensated. All that it means is that the College found that the Pharmacist or Pharmacy were in breach and will discipline or reprimand the Pharmacy or Pharmacist. They aren’t going to jail or anything like that. If they are a repeat offender, they may have to pay a fine or face a suspension. But, if the College does find wrongdoing, it will be a good indicator to the injured party that the Pharmacist did something wrong and will assist in the prosecution of the civil case. While a regulatory finding against the Pharmacist cannot be relied upon at trial, it’s a good starting point and sends a clear message to the insurer that their insured was in the wrong.
Step 4: Lawyer up. Retain a personal injury lawyer who has experience dealing with these overdose and dispensing error cases. Make sure that you are comfortable dealing with that lawyer because these cases are marathons and not sprints. If your personal injury lawyer could get you millions and millions of dollars tomorrow for your case; they would. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality of how these cases work. These cases, much like all personal injury cases take time, so you will need to be patient. That’s why it’s important to find a lawyer who knows what s/he is doing, and who you get along with. You don’t want to be stuck with a personal injury lawyer who’s clueless and who you can’t stand.
Step 5: This should NOT be the last step. It’s the step which is most important to your case, and needs to be dealt with throughout the lifetime of your case. Get the medical help and treatment you need through out the course of your case. No injury? No case! No damages? No case! These are called personal INJURY cases for a reason. You need to be INJURED in order to get compensated for those injuries. In some cases there may be a clear dispensing error. But that’s not to say that the dispensing error caused INJURY. Yes: the pharmacist could have killed someone had someone ingested all of that methadone. But it didn’t happen (lucky for everyone). The College will deal with the negligence of the pharmacist for dispensing too much methadone. The College will discipline their member as they see fit. You have no say in what course the College takes. But just because too much methadone was dispensed; does NOT equate to an injury or an award for damages.
It’s like the time Superman walked in to my office. Superman was just hit by a car as he was trying to walk across the street. The driver of the car was drunk and also texting. They were taken away by the police and put in to jail. Superman wanted to sue the drunk driver. We asked Superman if he was injured. Superman then looked in to my eyes and began to smirk. He said “Injury? What Injury? I’m freaking Superman? I don’t get injured? If feel no pain.”
I told Superman that even though he was completely innocent and did nothing wrong, that I would not be able to help him with his personal injury case because he had not been injured in this car accident. No injury? No claim for compensation.
So while there may have been a clear dispensing error, if there is no injury, there likely won’t be a successful claim for damages on the civil side of things.