A recent investigation delves more deeply into the details of the opioid crisis. It digs into a new area of concern: the courtroom. The investigation focuses on the role of judges in these cases and how they may have missed an opportunity to address this growing issue over 15 years ago.
How could judges have helped address the opioid crisis?
One of the first steps in a trial is discovery. Discovery is a period of time used by both parties to build their case. It involves both parties gathering evidence and conducting interviews. Ultimately, discretion over which evidence presented through discovery becomes public is often up to the judges.
The investigation, conducted by Reuters, found over a dozen judges reviewed documents from opioid manufacturers and chose to seal the evidence. This kept the evidence hidden from regulators, doctors and patients.
When questioned about the move to seal the records, judges often pointed to agreements between the parties. In many cases, judges stated they were simply agreeing with requests from both parties to the lawsuit to a settlement that included language requesting the evidence remain sealed. Critics state this excuse is unfounded as judges are still required to review the evidence and make a decision based on what is best for the public.
What are the broad implications of this investigation? How could it impact physicians and other medical practitioners?
The investigation is an example of the crackdown on the entire opioid industry and anyone who played a role in the use of opioids. Judges are under public scrutiny for how they handle these cases, and judges are only one part of the equation.
Medical professionals are also under scrutiny. As such, this investigation serves as a reminder for medical professionals to review their prescription practices and make changes as needed. A failure to do so could result in allegations of wrongdoing.