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The plaintiff's decedent, age 21, had a lorazepam prescription for anxiety filled in February 2012. Two days later, during the evening, the decedent ingested methadone. The decedent went into an emergency room a few hours later. Testing and a psychiatric consult were performed, with the decedent being found to be not suicidal. Almost 4 hours later, the decedent began being treated by defendant Dr Burns. The decedent's mother arrived at the emergency room about 6 hours later to pick up the decedent. The decedent was pronounced dead the following morning. The plaintiff claimed that the death was due to respiratory failure, secondary to methadone overdose. The plaintiff argued that the decedent should have been admitted, and that Dr Burns had discharged the decedent while he was still drowsy and sleepy. The defendants argued that the decedent's laboratory results had been in the normal range and the decedent himself was not suicidal.
A defense verdict was returned.
Stafford v. Empower Emergency Physicians, PC, and Burns, MD, Maricopa County (AZ) Superior Court, Case No. CV 2013-000019.
High Blood Glucose Blamed for Stroke
The plaintiff's decedent was seen by family physician Gregory Fuqua with Capital Family Physicians 22 times between March 2006 and May 2014. On several of those office visits in 2009 through April 2011 there was evidence that the decedent had blood glucose levels that were consistent with diabetes. Nothing was done to address this. In May 2011 the decedent showed signs of a stroke and was admitted to a hospital. He died 2 days later at the age of 63. The plaintiff alleged negligence in the failure to address the decedent's diabetes. Dr Fuqua claimed that he left messages with the decedent informing him that he was prediabetic and the decedent failed to follow up. Dr Fuqua also claimed that the death was due to sepsis from pneumonia, and was not related to diabetes.
A defense verdict was returned.
Casey v. Fuqua, Franklin County (KY) Circuit Court, Case No. 12-761.
Failure to Assess Risk of Suicide
The plaintiff's decedent, age 19, went to the defendant, an advanced practice mental health nurse, due to an inability to study as long as his peers. After the initial visit, the defendant diagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and prescribed Adderall. The decedent had not been diagnosed with ADHD previously. Over the next 6 months the decedent developed significant and increasing anxiety, a known side effect of Adderall, particularly for someone who does not have ADHD. The defendant prescribed fluoxetine. About 1 month following the start of fluoxetine, the defendant added bupropion as a prescribed medication. The plaintiff claimed that both fluoxetine and bupropion have a US Food and Drug Administration "black box" warning of an increased risk of suicide for patients the age of the defendant, who had other risk factors for suicide. About 3 weeks after bupropion was started the decedent e-mailed the defendant with complaints of increased anxiety, which he attributed to the medication, and asked for advice. The defendant e-mailed him to schedule an appointment to see her. The defendant's next available appointment was not for another week. Two days after sending the e-mail, the decedent was found dead of an apparent suicide.
A $650,000 settlement was reached.
Estate of Anonymous 19 Year-Old Man v. Anonymous Mental Health Nurse, unknown Massachusetts venue.
Reprinted with permission from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements and Experts, Lewis Laska, Editor, Nashville, Tennessee, 800-298-6288.