If you have been prescribed a dangerous drug or received a defective medical device – such as a hip or joint implant or a pelvic mesh, both of which have been demonstrated to cause serious health problems – you understand that you have a right to sue the manufacturer for damages. (If you don't understand this, contact us today.) What about the doctor who prescribed or recommended it, however? And what about the surgeon who implanted the device? Do they bear any liability?
This is not a simple question. The best answer is, “it depends.”
In an injury lawsuit, liability is determined by (among other things) whether or not the defendant knew – or should have known – that his actions or product would cause injury to the plaintiff. This is what your lawyer must prove if an injury case makes it to court. (You may be interested to know that most injury lawsuits are actually settled beforehand – and this is considered the best outcome.) Often, the manufacturer of a defective product will agree to an out-of-court settlement because they want to avoid a court battle that they may lose (along with the negative publicity that would go along with it).
In recent and ongoing cases involving hip and joint implants, pelvic slings, and drugs such as Actos, Avandia or Xarelto, plaintiffs' attorneys across the nation have been working to obtain evidence demonstrating that the natural persons at these corporations who make the decisions did in fact know about the dangers of their products.
When it comes to the doctors who actually prescribe drugs and implant devices, such liability is rare. In many cases, the doctors have been mislead by these companies as well. Sometimes however, a drug or medical device manufacturer will attempt to shift the blame for a patient's injuries onto a doctor. There are even cases when this may even be justified. For example, a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville recently told a New York Times reporter that the label for the drug Granuflo – a dialysis drug known to cause cardiac arrest – “provides enough information for doctors to figure out how to adjust dosing appropriately. ” This professor expressed his belief that physicians bear some responsibility in determining how to use the medication safely. Similar statements have been made about Pradaxa, an anti-clotting medication that can cause fatal hemorrhaging.
Ultimately, it boils down to whether or not a doctor knew (or should have known) about the medical risks of a given prescription drug or device – and whether or not s/he failed to warn the patient or neglected to take these risk factors into consideration.