When a New Study Says Stop: When Does Use of a Medical Treatment Become Negligence?

Over the past few years, more studies have come out that mark previously good medical treatments as questionable, if not dangerous. Possibly one of the better-known studies was released in May 2020 and found that the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 was potentially dangerous, with those patients using the medication at higher risk of death. Other medications have also come under fire, such as ranitidine and nizatidine, medications for indigestion that have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. As you can imagine, ads for legal consultations have already started appearing, at least in the case of the indigestion medications.

Cases like these bring to mind a question: just when does the use of these medications go from acceptable to medical negligence? Since it can take years for studies to show that a medication is truly harmful, when does your doctor's insistence that you use the medication become a bad thing?

What Results Were You Showing?

First, sometimes there is still some truth to the initially positive views toward using the treatment, and it's possible that you actually did respond well to the treatment because of an unknown factor. For example, maybe you lacked a secondary health condition that would have made use of the drug worse for you, so your doctor decided your results were good enough to warrant continued use. Or, maybe you were showing few results but no bad effects, and not enough studies had yet been released to convince your doctor to stop the use of the medication. In those cases, you might not be looking at negligence as your particular results seemed to show more benefits than drawbacks.

How Definite Were the Studies Showing the Treatment Wouldn't Work?

Another issue is how complete the studies were. In the case of hydroxychloroquine, for example, the May 2020 study was huge, spanning several countries and patients. That's a lot different than a study that looks at, say, fewer than 10 people in one hospital. In the case of other medications, there may have been several studies that show that there was a danger. If your doctor ignores these studies and you're not receiving any benefit from the medications, then you could be looking at a medical negligence case.

What Discussion Was There Regarding the Treatment?

Your role in the process is also at play. How much discussion was there between you and your doctor regarding the use of the treatment? Did you insist on its use? Did you agree—freely—to keep using it because you thought you were getting a benefit out of it? Or did you just follow your doctor's orders and not really question what you were using? If you freely agreed to keep using the treatment despite publicity surrounding studies that said the treatment was no good, you might not have a negligence case if you suffered from the side effects.

Medical negligence can be difficult to determine because there are so many factors that go into making each medical decision. The determination becomes even trickier with medications that once showed promise and now they're marked as bad to use. If you've suffered an injury related to the use of a medical treatment, and you think your doctor was negligent and did not keep you as safe as possible, you need to speak with a medical negligence attorney to see if you have a case.

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