Proposed bill would make doctors liable for opioid-addicted patients

Proposed bill would make doctors liable for opioid-addicted patients

A proposed bill that would make doctors held responsible for patients who become addicted to prescription opioids has been met with criticism from advocates and the medical community.

“Many prescribers underestimate the risk of opioids, particularly when it comes to addiction, and overestimate their effectiveness,” Rep. Peter Capano (D-Lynn) said Tuesday before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

“An act requiring practitioners to be held responsible for patient opioid addiction,” Bill H.3656, would require a practitioner who prescribes an opioid to be liable to the patient if they become addicted and therefore pay for the patient’s first 90 days in treatment.

Capano said the opioid crisis is “fueled by the overprescription of opioids,” saying that doctors should exercise caution in their prescribing practices and take more responsibility for patients who become addicted.

Steve Tolman, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO labor union and a former state senator, presented the bill alongside Capano and said when patients return to their doctor with an addiction problem they get “shut off.”

“If a prescribing physician gives dangerously addictive drugs to a patient, and then they’re hooked, then they should pay for the first 90 days of treatment. It’s common sense,” Tolman said. “The physician should not be allowed to turn his back.” Tolman and Capano suggested doctors could take out an insurance policy to shoulder the potential financial burden.

The bill is not intended to take painkillers away from patients with cancer, major surgery, or their end-of-life care, Capano said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 58 opioid prescriptions were written for every 100 Americans in 2017. From 1999 to 2017, nearly 218,000 people died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids.

But the proposed bill isn’t sitting well with doctors and members of the recovery community.

Tiffany Anderson, a mom in recovery and maternal recovery specialist with Jewish Family and Children’s Service, said the bill is “unfair.”

“I don’t think it’s right because addiction truly is a disease,” said Anderson. “I don’t think it’s fair for doctors who have done their homework to be put at fault.”

Anderson said doctors should consider other pain management options before jumping to opioids, but responsibility should also lie in properly weaning patients off prescription painkillers.

Dr. Saul Weingart, chief medical officer at Tufts Medical Center, said the bill presents a lot of challenges such as finances and vast patient variability.

“I just worry that it is overly simplistic. We need to hold physicians accountable for practicing safely … but we need to do it under some of the traditional rules of physicians’ behavior,” Weingart said.

Weingart said physicians should always be transparent about the risk of taking opioids and consider alternative treatments with their patients.

“Our responsibility is to educate ourselves about what our practice is and try to understand the epidemic and understand the tools and resources that are out there,” Weingart said.

Frank Melaragni, a professor at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science, said having the “Right to Know” law in the Bay State, which requires doctors to discuss the addictive potential of opioids to patients before prescribing them, would help residents the most.

“Having unused prescription opiates is like having a loaded gun in your house,” said Melaragni. “We still overprescribe, there’s no question, we’re still getting far too many opiates, still consuming far too many opiates in this country.”

13 Responses

  1. I agree with cheek50. Just because you work for the government
    Doesn’t mean you have any idea what you are talking about. I have never in my 70yrs of life hears such BS. Now you want to pass a bill
    To blame the Doctor because some idiot became addicted to a drug.
    They can’t tell, all by themselves, if they need a drug badly enough to
    call the Doctor & tell them something is wrong right away. No, they
    Just continue to take the drugs, than blame the Doctor’s, The Pharmacy’s, and the big bad wold, the actual drug maker.

    No wonder the Democrats are doing so bad. No one in this world
    Today seems to take responsibility for anything that they do, they
    Just pass it on to someone else or lie about it. Just like the
    Lying, pathetic President.

    **Before you try making & passing bills that affect the public I suggest
    You actually check your facts, the ones you have are old news and

  2. So, I read this yesterday. I went to Peter Capano Twitter account and left him a message. I asked (nicely) that he with draw this bill; that there was no relationship between prescriptions written and OD deaths; and that a pill does not cause addiction. I asked him to educate himself to the facts. Today, I checked back on Peter Capano’s Twitter account (, to find out that I had been blocked.

    If any one wonders why the CPP community is in our current predicament, it is because politicians such as P. Capano are deaf to being told the facts of the so called “opioid crisis”. He is not interested in learning the facts – only in submitting bills based on misinformation that he thinks will make him look good in the “eyes” of his “brain washed” voters.

    I wonder (as a public servant), is he allowed to block people making valid comments on his social media account(s)?

    • The SCOTUS has ruled on this issue – Public officials can not block constituents from social media accounts if the account is utilized for political purposes. Find an attorney & file suit.

    • Mr.Wayne,,,as Steve has taught me,,,it was never about exposing TRUTH,, it is about the government/kolodny spreading’s their bias propaganda,in my opinion for $$$$$.Furthermore I discovered this weekend that only class 1 and 2 controlled substances/our medicine is under the control of the dea,,,NO-WONDER WHY THEY REFUSED TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE 90 % OF THE PUBLIC WHO SAID ,”NO” DO NOT MOVE OUR OPIATES TO A CLASSS 2… if they stayed a class 3,or 4,,the DEA had no controll over them,ie quanities!!!!!!!!!!! ,,Truth has no place in a corrupted regime,,,,obviously,,maryw


    42 U.S. Code § 1395. Prohibition against any Federal interference

    U.S. Code

    Nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to authorize any Federal officer or employee to exercise any supervision or control over the practice of medicine or the manner in which medical services are provided, or over the selection, tenure, or compensation of any officer or employee of any institution, agency, or person providing health services; or to exercise any supervision or control over the administration or operation of any such institution, agency, or person.
    (Aug. 14, 1935, ch. 531, title XVIII, § 1801, as added Pub. L. 89–97, title I, § 102(a), July 30, 1965, 79 Stat. 291.)

    • Bingo,,that cfr 1395 saids it all.There are others the United States Government is violating,,such as the DEA practicing medicine,,against the laws of this country for any government agency to interfere w/medicine.Torture in another law their violation. There is about 25 laws,amendements and constitutional violations the American Government has violated,,but no lawyer has the balls to go after them!!!U know,I don’t know about anyone else,but I was taught,what u put in your own body as a adult is your ,”free will,” your ,”informed consent,” it is not the doctors responsibility to babysit u as adults..WTH is wrong w/these idiots and why is no-one but us willing to call these type of people out for being dead wrong IDIOTS about addiction?!!1

  4. Ahhhh… The Perfection of Stupidity.

  5. Vote hungry politicians playing doctor? What could go wrong?
    Get Out Of My Doctor’s Office.

  6. Ok-just give us our quality of life back

    • Amen to that! My life went to hell after getting cut-off from the 250 MEUs I was taking daily. For 5 months I was w/o any prescribed pain medication, during which I saw a genetic specialist, a University, & 2 other pain doctors to confirm that I am still dying from Inclusive Body Myopathy thanks to being poisoned by the very profitable drug known as Simvastatin, (generic Zocor).
      Fortunately, (sort of), I found the NP who worked w/my old Dr., but he will only give me 150 MEUs due to his overseeing physician’s prescribing rule. My NP knows that this isn’t enough medication as my disease continues to take its toll.
      I’m lucky if I get a couple of hours a day where I can say I almost feel normal, but sadly during this time I often fool myself into thinking that there is actually some kind of future for me…then reality sets back in. Without having enough medication to make it through an entire day, I ask myself how I could be so foolish to dream of any future?
      Given how my illness has progressed, I honestly don’t even know if having the medication I need will even be able restore the life quality I had before getting cut-off.
      Ever since the CDC’s 4/29/19 letter that threw Dr.s under the bus, I’ve been trying to hire an attorney to sue the Dr.s responsible for my needless suffering, but I can’t find a lawyer willing to take the case, even if I offer to pay their hourly fees.

      Well enough of this, I’m going to watch my grandson play football & my granddaughter cheer in the poring rain after another sleepless night. It’s so hard to enjoy these little aspects of life when you’re being forced to live like this.

      God Bless you & Good Luck

      • The attorneys may be thinking “malpractice” and not “pt abuse and/or discrimination under Americans with Disability Act “… pt abuse is much easier to prove than malpractice… because with malpractice the defense will bring in a “expert” who will agree with what the prescriber is doing is meeting standard of care and best practices. Discrimination is a pretty straight forward proof.. Does the prescriber place arbitrary “limits” the mgs/day for pt with other chronic diseases ? If not, then good chance discrimination could be proved in a lawsuit.

        • Steve,
          Thanks for that assessment. I am pretty much in the same boat as John Burchardt and your answer referring to “pt abuse and/or discrimination under Americans with Disability Act “ helped a lot. In fact, I did not think of this as “abuse” or “discrimination”, but possibility a “withholding of Services” (meaning my meds are being withheld by a clinic/doctor that is supposed to provide them at a dosage level where I was considered stable). I was searching for a lawyer, but had trouble finding one until i included the above terms that you suggested (in my search). Hopefully, your post will help other CPPs fight back against their forced medication reduction (FMR).

          If enought CPPs do fight back against these FMRs, clinics might come to realize that they need to “push back” themselves (in a court of law if/as needed) if Federal/State Agencies are telling them to do FMRs on their legacy chronic pain patients. Right now, it is too easy for a clinic to endanger the CPP’s life with a FMR rather than take legal action to defend their CPP and the patients right to appropriate pain care treatment.

          One other resource CPPs might try is their state’s “Disability Law Center” (DLC). These folks usually have a web site where one can submit a description of their problem along with contact information. The DLC then reviews the information and then responds with an email as to whether they will accept your case or not. Their services are free. Note that the DLC is a nonprofit organization the operates on a yearly funded budget. If that budget is gone for the current year (which does happen) when a new case is submitted, they will state that in their response email with suggestions on how to contact a lawyer referral service. This did not work too well for me this time around, but others might have better luck using their State’s DLC.

  7. The representatives in Massachusetts who sponsor this bill need to be fired.
    Since anyone taking an opioid is considered an addict by today’s legal and medical definition, a doctor prescribing one to anyone is stupid, if this bill becomes law.
    If you don’t want laws like this in every state, learn the REAL cause of drug abuse on and spread the word. That is the only way to stop the insanity–for people to realize that the drugs are NOT the cause of addiction.

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