California Medical Board to Revise Dreaded Death Certificate Project

by Cheryl Clark: For Entire Post, Go Here…

ngd- A particularly appalling example of using mindless punishment instead of common sense. This was entirely predictable…

2019 death data suggest frightful consequence: doubling of fatal overdoses versus earlier years.

California’s Death Certificate Project, in which physicians were investigated and sometimes punished after patients fatally overdosed, may have resulted in a terrible unintended consequence: More, not fewer, overdose deaths around the state.

New data culled from 2019 death certificates from the state’s 58 counties add up to 2,666 overdose fatalities, versus 2,694 reported during 2012 and 2013, the first and only two years examined so far under the project. That’s a 98% increase over the annual average for those earlier years.

“It represents almost a doubling of the death reports, so that obviously is a serious cause for concern,” William Prasifka, who became the Medical Board of California’s executive director in June. He said he plans to remodel the program. Additionally, the board investigations will now skip ahead five years and focus just on overdose deaths in 2019.

Prasifka presented the 2019 data and the program changes during the board’s quarterly meeting Friday.

He said that while the board’s analysts have not yet dug into the 2019 cases in detail, “there are some indications that there is a high percentage of the deaths which are related to street drugs,” not drugs prescribed by physicians.

Now, board members are becoming introspective, with some wondering whether the overdose death rate was higher in 2019 in part because of the Death Certificate Project, which launched in 2015.

Many prominent physicians saw themselves publicly shamed as careless overprescribers over the past several years, prompting their colleagues to get so scared they abruptly refused to prescribe opioids again, even for long-standing patients. That resulted in many, many patients who had depended on their doctors suddenly having to find non-medical sources, especially since pain management specialists — already in scarce supply — were getting slammed.

Many patients were taken off their opioid narcotics abruptly, Thorp continued. They “become desperate and then many of them actually do go to the street to look for other sources of opioids rather than a more controlled way of getting medications,” he said.

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