Do Physicians Face Liability in Prescribing Marijuana to Their Patients?
Colorado physician Manuel De Jesus Aquino had his medical license suspended for prescribing marijuana to a 20-year old pregnant patient. Prior to writing the prescription, no physical examination was performed and no follow-up visit was made. The patient wasn’t even required to complete a medical history.
On April 8, 2010, the patient gave birth to her child and tested positive for marijuana. The infant did have feeding difficulties. It’s not clear whether the infant will have any long-term effects from being exposed in utero to the marijuana.
As more states allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, more questions will be raised concerning the suitability of such prescriptions as well as the prescribing physician’s liability for any adverse outcomes. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, according to the Controlled Substances Act, which means it is considered highly addictive with little to no medicinal value. Furthermore, because marijuana is considered to be a controlled substance, there are stringent requirements for those who dispense such drugs. For instance, are doctors tracking patients who are using marijuana as well the sources from which they are using the drug?
Since marijuana use is considered highly addictive and can lead to other adverse health effects such as cancer, pulmonary complications, and immune system suppression how can a physician who prescribes it be following an appropriate standard of care for the patient? This may be the point at which physicians become liable for substandard care. It may also lead to marijuana prescription malpractice.
The issue has already come up in some New England states such as Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. It’s pretty certain it will also become an issue in New Hampshire in the near future.
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