Medical Malpractice Concerns Rise When Pain Management Diagnoses Fail

Missed or delayed pain management diagnoses create a serious risk for hospital patients. Today’s Hospitalist found that nurses, doctors, and support staff frequently failed at communicating dosing amounts, did not conduct appropriate monitoring, and struggled to communicate effectively with each other.

These mistakes play a huge role in causing serious injuries and wrongful deaths in hospitals nationwide. Today’s Hospitalist found that 11 percent of claims brought against hospitals involved pain medicine and management practices. Medical professionals must be cognizant of the fact that most patients enter the hospital already on numerous medications. A full medical history and physical examination are critical before administering new medicines. In instances where a patient is not able to give his or her history, hospitalists should reach out to the patient’s family, pharmacy, or insurer to gather all the prescription information the patient is using.

One area of critical concern is with written prescriptions. The study showed that many hospitalists wrote orders for a dose range instead of an exact dosage and time interval. This is especially problematic when narcotics and sedatives are being used to alleviate pain symptoms given their propensity to cause respiratory depression and respiratory arrest. Hospitals should have guidelines when prescribing multiple narcotics and sedatives to prevent fatal events. And when numerous, powerful medicines are being used, hospitalists need to check on patients every hour to check their respiration, pain, and sedation levels.

A case history that Today’s Hospitalist looked at involved a patient who died after excess dosages of Dilaudid, a narcotic pain medication. As the investigation into the incident followed, it was discovered that a range of pain medication was given instead of precise directions. The nurse spoke to the doctor after the patient’s pain was still at a level 10 after many hours. The doctor was harsh in his responses with the nurse, which ultimately resulted in the patient receiving the equivalent of 88 mg of morphine along with Demerol and Valium. When the nurse gave the last dose to the patient, the doctor stopped by the hospital room but decided not to disturb the patient as he was finally not feeling pain.

Everyone involved should have given more time to the patient and his safety. Nurse and doctor communication should have been more open than tense; dosage directions should have been explicit; and the patient should have been monitored more closely. Medical professionals cannot lose sight of delivering quality care to each patient. Hospitalists owe this duty to their patients, even when they are managing numerous patients and critical care situations. Pain management protocols must be in effect to provide clinicians with checks and balances in these situations, especially when they hand off the patient to the next nurse and hospitalist on duty.

When an individual or their loved one suffers injuries or a wrongful death from a hospitalist’s missed or delayed pain management diagnoses, they should promptly seek legal action. In Illinois, the Chicago medical malpractice attorney Paul A. Greenberg, Esq. will go after the liable individual and hospital to rectify the wrongdoing. The law firm of Briskman Briskman & Greenberg has helped clients for decades as they seek compensation for their pain and suffering, medical bills, and related costs. As successful Chicago medical malpractice lawyers, the team will uphold your rights when your health has been compromised or neglected. To learn more, visit or call 877-595-HURT (4878).

Briskman Briskman & Greenberg
351 West Hubbard Street, Ste 810
Chicago, IL 60654

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer and Chicago medical malpractice attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit

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