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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Like a bartender who serves a drunk customer: The physician's liability for drug side-effects

David Sacca, 75, was a very sick man, with emphysema, high blood pressure, and metastatic lung cancer. He was taking oxycodone, Zaroxolyn, prednisone, Flomax, potassium, Paxil, oxazepam, and furosemide – some of which can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and fainting.

While driving in Spring 2002, David passed out and drove off the road, hitting and killing a ten-year-old boy, Kevin Coombes, who had been standing on the sidewalk with a friend.

Yesterday the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that David's doctor could be sued for failing to warn his patient about the side effects of the drugs and for failing to warn him of the danger of driving while under the drugs' influence.

In writing the court's lead opinion, Justice Roderick Ireland compared the doctor's liability to that of a bartender who serves a drunk customer.

Almost every drug has side effects. Drowsiness is a common side effect of many prescription drugs. This ruling greatly expands physicians' liability for the prescriptions they write every day.

Advice: Ask your doctor and pharmacist about the likely side effects of your drugs.

Browse for related stories in the index at the very bottom of this page, or read a story of the sad consequences of a different kind of expectable side effect, from Zyprexa.

Thanks to Liz Kowalczyk for the source article in today's Boston Globe.

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