Methadone Deaths Linked to Doctors' Negligence

Methadone is a synthetic opiate often used to treat pain in a medical clinic or hospital setting.  Unfortunately, sometimes the doctors prescribing methadone or ordering methadone for a patient, do not have experience with methadone, do not know the laws involving methadone prescribing or are not aware of the pharmacology or half-life of methadone.  One patient hospitalized for gastrointestinal problems, used morphine for chronic back pain.  When the patient asked his wife to bring his morphine to the hospital, the hospital insisted that they would have one of their physicians write a pain prescription to replace the morphine.  Unfortunately, the neurologist decided to substitute methadone for the morphine and did not convert the drug correctly.  Because the patient was using 100 mg of morphine, she replaced it with 100 mg of methadone. Those two doses were not equal. The patient soon went into respiratory arrest, a “code blue” was called, and he was put on a respirator.  We handled this case, and many others.

PJ Lile-King