The entire country has been trying to deal with the opioid epidemic for the past several years. Now, California’s medical board is going straight to the source. In a measure known as the Death Certification Project, the medical board is attempting to hold the doctors that prescribe the opioids responsible.
The project began when the medical board obtained the death certificates of nearly 3,000 people who died of opioid overdoses. They then cross-referenced those records with the state’s database of people with opioid prescriptions. Researching the database tells the medical board what doctors prescribed the opioids, so that the board could take further action.
Every doctor that prescribed opioids resulting in a death is now under investigation. If the board finds that any doctor violated the laws, those doctors face public reprimand, probation, and even possible revocation of their medical license.
“These may seem like excessive measures to some, but they are necessary,” says Irvine attorney Larry Eisenberg of the Law Offices of Eisenberg & Associates. “Hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths in the state are preventable when people do not have access to the drugs in the first place. Doctors should be held accountable so that they do not rely on prescribing opioids as their first line of defense. Instead, they need to look at other measures that could help their patients even more than prescribing potentially deadly drugs.”
Those that believe the Death Certificate Project will unjustly vilify doctors have nothing to fear. Of the 3,000 opioid-related deaths considered, only about 500 doctors have received letters. Of those 500, only 25 doctors have had formal accusations filed against them.
In addition to the Project, California has also enacted several state laws trying to combat the opioid crisis. One pertaining specifically to doctors is Senate Bill 1109. This bill strives to better educate doctors about the risk of opioid addiction through the continuing education courses on pain management. As of 2019, these courses will include education on the risks of opioid addiction. Dentists, nurses, physician assistants, and osteopathic physicians are also required to take these courses.
The Death Certificate Project has drawn sharp criticism from doctors and other healthcare professionals now under scrutiny. However, it is clear that if it helps bring an end to the opioid crisis, the measure is well worth it.