Family Members Swipe Hospice Patients’ Painkillers

TUESDAY, Feb. 11, 2020 (HealthDay News) — In another sign of just how bad the U.S. opioid abuse epidemic has become, a new study finds family members often steal painkillers from dying relatives in hospice care.

In a survey of 371 hospices, 31% reported at least one case in which drugs were taken from a patient in the past 90 days. The thieves were most often relatives.

Lead researcher John Cagle said it’s not clear if those who steal the drugs are addicted, financially struggling, or both, though he assumes that is the case. No matter what, swiping drugs that dying patients need to manage their pain is cruel, he said.

“Where medications are being taken from patients, those patients are probably suffering,” said Cagle, an associate professor of social work at the University of Maryland in Baltimore.

He added that the “drug diversion” problem may be bigger than these numbers suggest.