Earlier last month, an appellate court in Tennessee issued a written opinion in a case involving the death of a man who had overdosed on prescription medication. The court ultimately determined that the patient’s death was attributable to his own actions. The case was presented to the court as a workers’ compensation case, but the issue the court decided was relevant to personal injury cases involving allegations of pharmacy error and medical malpractice.
The petitioner was the surviving wife of a carpenter who involved in an accident while on the job. As a result of the accident, the man’s doctor prescribed oxycodone, a powerful and addictive pain medication. The man took the medication as directed at first but then began abusing it. According to the court’s opinion, he would skip doses of the medication in fear that he would run out when he needed it. He eventually started to take the medication with alcohol to increase the medication’s effectiveness.
About two years after his accident, the man’s wife discovered her husband’s lifeless body in bed. The woman, through her deceased husband, filed for workers’ compensation benefits based on the fact that the original injury her husband sustained occurred while he was on the job. An autopsy reported the man’s cause of death as opioid toxicity, with contributing causes of hypertension, alcohol use, and tobacco use.