Psychiatric Medical Malpractice Case - Patient Suffers Physical and Emotional Injuries From Psychiatrist's Negligence

Physical and Emotional Injuries
Ronald E. Gluck, Esq. - Breakstone, White & Gluck, P.C. Boston (For the plaintiff)
May 2014
Case Description:

The plaintiff was an Ivy League school graduate and the mother of a teenage son. She was raising her son while employed by a Boston area non-profit organization. She was also attending a graduate program at a Boston area college until she began to deteriorate emotionally and physically while under the care of the defendant, a Boston psychiatrist with more than 20 years of experience.  

The plaintiff consulted the psychiatrist for panic and anxiety issues for several years. During this time, the doctor breached the standard of care and overprescribed the patient multiple medications, including anti-depressants, anti-psychotic medications, mood stabilizing agents, benzodiazepines, psycho-stimulants and an assortment of other non-psychiatric medications. These medications included Paxil, which the doctor prescribed at four times the maximum dosage for several years, causing the patient to become toxic.

As a result, the plaintiff suffered psychological trauma, became wheelchair bound for a period of time, neurologically impaired and she was chronically fatigued. She had to visit hospital emergency rooms multiple times and undergo psychiatric hospitalizations to become detoxified.

The plaintiff was unable to work for several years. The state department of children and family services removed her son from her care for more than a year. During that time, he had to live with a Foster family, which disrupted his daily routine and caused him long-term emotional suffering, anxiety and nightmares.

After the plaintiff’s care was transferred to a different psychiatrist, and after she was put on a proper medication regimen, the court allowed her to regain custody of her son. They were reunited in 2010. The plaintiff is actively involved as a volunteer for a non- profit organization, and as the mother of her son.

The case is important for the public at large as an example of a doctor who violated the duty she owed to her patient to safely prescribe medications to her.  In prescribing medications to psychiatric patients, psychiatrists must monitor the effects of the medications in a variety of ways one of which includes clinical monitoring which means seeing the patient, evaluating behaviors, and generally checking the effects the medications are having on the patient.  

Many medications require monitoring through blood testing. It is critical for the psychiatrist to check black box warnings for dosage to be certain that the prescription levels are safe for the patient.  In this case, the psychiatrist failed to properly monitor the wide variety of medications that she was prescribing to the patient and failed to recognize the very apparent effects the medications were having on the patient whose life was spiraling out of control. In these cases, patients become completely dependent on the advice and judgment of the psychiatrists.  Improperly prescribed medications alter patient judgment, making it difficult if not impossible for the patient to realize that the reason they are losing their faculties is the treatment they are receiving from the person they need to trust the most is causing their life to spiral out of control.     

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