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According to the Food and Drug Administration’s website, abuse of the fentanyl patch has risen in recent years. However, the blame does not lie with drug-abusing patients. Instead, the responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of doctors who have prescribed the pain relief patch inappropriately. For example, the FDA has warned since 2005 that the fentanyl patch was specifically designed for cancer and other seriously ill patients who have developed a tolerance for opium-derived painkillers. However, the FDA continues to receive reports of life-threatening side effects and deaths in patients who were prescribed the patch for mild pain such as headaches or other occasional physical discomfort.

Sadly, 15-year-old Michael Blankenship, an autistic young man who was unable to speak, was prescribed a fentanyl patch following dental work. He was released to his mother’s home the day of the surgery, and went to bed that night with the fentanyl patch affixed to his body. His dentist claims he had never prescribed such a strong fentanyl painkiller. In fact, the patch released 100 micrograms per hour, the maximum dosage available. The next morning, Tammy Jarbo-Blankenship, Michael’s mother, found Michael dead in his bed.

Since the incident, Tammy has created a memorial fund in her son’s name to help other autistic children with life’s obstacles and to generate public awareness of Autism. Moreover, she has filed a lawsuit against Seattle Children’s Hospital, where the dentist prescribed Michael the fentanyl patch. Tammy also stated that the civil suit is the last chance for her to hold Children’s Hospital accountable for her son’s death.

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