Can a doctor be considered negligent if he prescribes a large quantity of a drug to a patient who is suicidal? A woman whose sister killed herself has filed a lawsuit alleging doctor and hospital negligence that asks that very question.
Though this isn't a case that will be heard in West Virginia, it raises issues that concern people here and have a bearing on medical malpractice actions.
The woman who committed suicide was a Navy veteran who had tried three times in eight months to end her life. Each time, she ingested a prescribed antipsychotic drug, but each time, the dosage wasn't large enough to kill her.
However, on Veteran's Day of 2010, the 37-year-old succeeded in ending her life.
Her twin sister has filed a suit against the Hampton VA Medical Center alleging that a doctor there was negligent in prescribing a four-month supply of the medication to a suicidal patient who had already tried repeatedly to take a fatal overdose.
The Navy vet had taken all, or almost all, of the 120-day supply.
The sister notes that the Food and Drug Administration warns that the drug Seroquel has side effects that can include "suicidal thoughts."
The two sisters served six years in the Navy together, both as hospital corpsmen. They left the service in 1997.
The sister who died struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and psychosis and had been receiving treatment at Veterans Affairs hospitals since her discharge.
The case involves a number of difficult questions, including whether or not the doctor should have prescribed smaller quantities of the drug to a suicidal patient.
Source: Source: The Virginian-Pilot, "After Navy vet's suicide, sister sues VA hospital," Bill Sizemore, Nov. 13, 2012
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