A jury in upstate New York awarded the family of a teacher $1.5 million after the teacher killed himself, which the family claimed was because of an unchecked prescription for antidepressants. According to the plaintiff’s case, the patient had not seen his doctor for 10 years and the doctor just kept filling prescriptions without any follow-up care, questions, or warnings to the family.
The patient was on a continuing prescription for Paxil, which the FDA required the drug makers to add a warning that the drugs increased the risk of suicidal thinking. The state health department charged the doctor with negligent practice for prescribing drugs to patients without seeing them, and also disciplined the doctor for drug and alcohol abuse.
After the patient reported an anxiety attack, the doctor doubled his dose of Paxil. When the patient was concerned he may be having a heart attack, he went to the hospital, where the ER doctor lowered his Paxil dose. According to the patient’s wife, the doctor was furious that they’d gone to the hospital and “exposed his treatment.”
Patients Seeking Help for Depression
When patients are suffering from depression or anxiety, it can be difficult to seek out treatment. Many people with mental health conditions feel there is a stigma associated with seeking out care even though mental health is just as important as physical health. When mental health patients do talk to a psychiatrist or doctor about their concerns, their doctors have to be held to a minimum standard of care.
The proper standard of care when treating a patient with anxiety or depression may include monitoring the patient to make sure they are responding well to treatment. If the patient begins to suffer adverse reactions, the doctor should consider changing dosage or changing medications. Continuing with the wrong medication, including antidepressants, could present a risk of injury or harm to the patient.
Dangers of Antidepressants
Antidepressants are a category of drugs that are designed to help patients suffering from depression and may also be used for other conditions. Many antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). However, there are many known side effects of SSRIs, including birth defects and an increased risk of suicidal ideation.
Prescription Errors in Mental Health
A prescription error occurs when there is an increase in the risk of harm or reduction in effective treatment because of a prescribing decision or prescription. Drug errors can be caused by the prescribing doctor, hospital, or pharmacy. Prescription errors can include:
- Writing the wrong prescription;
- Wrong dose, route, or frequency;
- Dangerous drug combinations; or
- Failure to monitor the patient’s reaction to the drug.
Prescription errors that cause injury or harm to a patient can occur in anyone taking medication, even healthy patients. Oversight or negligence in prescribing medication, overprescribing, or failing to monitor the patient that causes harm may be a type of medical malpractice.
Doctors, pharmacies, and psychiatrists who make dangerous medication errors should be held responsible for their negligence. If you or a family member suffered an injury because of a prescription error, contact the medical malpractice lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian online to get started on your case.