Bill to Let Rx Addicts Sue Doctors Is Stalled

By Tony O'Neill 03/07/13

A controversial proposal in Nevada meets overwhelming opposition from doctors and patients.

sue doctor.jpg
Will the bill die a painful death? Photo via

A bill that would allow prescription-drug addicted patients to sue the doctors who prescribed their meds met with overwhelming opposition yesterday during a Nevada legislative hearing. The bill, SB-75, was introduced by Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom (D-Las Vegas), in response to the “painkiller epidemic” sweeping the nation. But doctors and pain patients found so much to complain about in the proposed bill that opposition testifiers had to be asked to keep their remarks short to accommodate them all. "This bill ties the hands of physicians and takes away the rights of patients to choose which risk to assume while seeking treatment for their diseases," said testifier David Johnson, a Las Vegas physician, "Yes, some drugs may be addictive, but that may be the less important issue when fighting the disease or symptom." He also pointed out that potentially addictive medicines are often the only way to fight the symptoms of agonizing terminal illnesses such as cancer. "Everything in medicine has a risk," he said, "Most often the good effects outweigh the bad, but we don't know which patient will have a bad side effect."

A Las Vegas pain management specialist even brought one of his patients along to the hearing—a woman suffering from a severe disfigurement, who has been on painkillers for 15-years. "Without Methadone her life would be a living hell," said Dr. James Marx. "I can't imagine anyone with expertise in chronic pain management was consulted in the drafting of this bill." The bill also sought to target Nevada’s 12-year-old medical marijuana program, by proposing MMH patients be able to sue their clinics if they become “addicted to marijuana.”

"Would you propose a law where slot machine manufacturers and casinos are liable for the financial loss and gambling addictions of their visitors?" asked one physician who opposed the bill, "or the bartenders and liquor manufacturers for DUI's and alcoholism addictions by their patrons?" After the controversial hearing, Sen. Segerblom told the Associated Press that he didn’t believe that prescription painkillers were as necessary as the doctors claimed, saying: "I know we lived without them before so I'm skeptical these are the only ways to treat these diseases.” Historians believe that the painkilling properties of opium were first harnessed as far back as 3500 BCE.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
Tony O'Neill_0.jpg

Tony O'Neill, a regular contributor to The Fix, is the author of several novels, including Digging the VeinDown and Out on Murder Mile and Sick City. He also co-authored the New York Times bestseller Hero of the Underground (with Jason Peter) and the Los Angeles Times bestseller Neon Angel (with Cherie Currie). He lives in New York with his wife and daughter. You can follow Tony on Twitter.