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Wrongful Death

Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Malpractice

June 9, 2021 by James McHugh, Jr.
Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Malpractice

Substance abuse is a growing epidemic in the United States. In fact, Pennsylvania is currently experiencing some of the highest numbers of drug overdose deaths in the country. Despite a growing recognition of the problem as a disease, few people get the treatment they really need to recover. And obviously not all addiction treatment programs are created equal. But what can you do if a brave loved one does seek substance abuse treatment but somehow winds up worse off than they were beforehand?

In a recent Tucson verdict, the jury awarded $5M to the mother of young man who died after his stay at Sierra Tucson for drug rehabilitation and mental health issues. Following the patient’s 2014 death, the state of Arizona only fined the facility $250 for failing to follow its patient care policies and procedures. This small fine was the only punishment for the facility, despite the victim being one of five patients who died in its care from 2011 through 2015. In addition to this case, a Tucson high school teacher went missing from the facility three days after checking herself in and remains missing to this day. Acadiana Healthcare Company Inc. continues to accept patients into its Sierra Tucson facility and its other treatment facilities nationwide.

What is a Substance Abuse Facility?

People who suffer from drug and/or alcohol addictions can choose to seek treatment at a substance abuse facility where there are programs available to help them break free from their addictions. Substance abuse facilities typically hire staff consisting of health care workers, including doctors, nurses, and physician’s assistants. If the facility fails to perform the appropriate background checks on their staff and someone is hired with a history of negligence or abuse, the facility may be held liable if that person injures or neglects a patient. Similarly, if an employee fails to follow the treatment protocols of the facility, the facility may be held liable for negligence as well.

Common types of substance abuse facilities can include rehabilitation residential treatment centers, partial hospitalization programs, sober living facilities, and more.

Medical Malpractice in Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities

While patients in substance abuse treatment facilities are generally considered to be in better health than patients in general hospitals, mistakes can still happen that put them at risk. Some of the types of medical malpractice patients can experience in rehab can include:

  • Inadequate monitoring – Just because a patient might be making improvements or be in better condition doesn’t mean they don’t need the appropriate monitoring. Some patients rely on the healthcare workers in their facility for some of the most basic and important tasks like going to the bathroom, eating, or even walking.
  • Medication errors – Substance abuse facilities administer a lot of medication, and it’s incredibly important the right medication goes to the right patient. Giving the wrong patient a blood thinner could cause internal bleeding or giving the wrong dosage of painkillers could cause a patient to lose consciousness.
  • Substandard care – When workers in substance abuse facilities fail to provide quality care, patients are more likely to suffer from falls, relapse, panic attacks, and malnutrition. While substandard care doesn’t always cause severe accidents or injuries, it can increase the amount of time a patient will need to recover and thus bolster the money the facility gets for keeping them as a patient longer than is likely needed.

Recovering Damages for Negligent Substance Abuse Treatment

In cases where substance abuse patients are treated negligently by using outdated and ineffective treatments that do not live up to industry standards, this can lead to patient harm and injured and affected patients may be able to recover financial damages through a medical malpractice lawsuit. While any dangerous practices that cause physical injury qualify as negligent, some relapse cases may be attributed to negligence as well. Whether or not an addiction relapse can be considered as resulting from malpractice depends heavily on the details of each particular case; however, recent research suggests negligent treatment at substance abuse treatment centers is much more common than most people realize.

An experienced trial lawyer can even hold the facility itself liable under a legal doctrine in which employers are held accountable for the negligent actions of their employees. This is important as it often means organizations with plentiful financial resources and larger insurance policies will be able to provide appropriate compensation to injured patients if their employee is found to have acted negligently.

Substance Abuse Treatment Negligence Lawyers

Drug and alcohol rehab treatment centers are becoming an even more crucial part of the American healthcare system. While they are not all hospitals per se, they do offer crucial in-patient care to patients in need of assistance; however, they are not regulated like other medical facilities at all. If you or someone you care for has been a part of an ineffective treatment program that provided negligent care, you may be able to bring a legal claim to recover compensation for your damages. It is important to discuss the specific circumstances of your potential claim with an experienced medical negligence lawyer. Contact Lopez McHugh for help today.

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