Overdose Scapegoating

Rapid consumption of a fifth of hard liquor will kill most people. Would we blame the clerk who sold it? Would we accuse them of murder? If not, how can we blame a doctor for prescribing a lethal dose of a drug?

Physicians routinely prescribe, and pharmacists dispense, lethal doses of analgesics, anxiolytics, and other kinds of drugs, but when the patient takes the prescribed amount it rarely kills the patient.

Of course we should hold the physician responsible for unnecessary prescribing of dangerous combinations, like opiate plus benzo, or for failing to consider accumulation of long half-life drugs like methadone in opiate naive patients.

If the patient takes more than directed, the patient also takes responsibility for the consequences. Whether the patient takes the overdose with suicidal intent or just to get high we should stop scapegoating doctors or pharmacists when the patient dies.

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