Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Doctor Prescribes Drugs That Kill Three Patients

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | Jul 27, 2016 | 0 Comments

Before a doctor writes a prescription for the patient, they must understand the risks and benefits involved in giving the patient the medication. The doctor should communicate the possible side effects of the drugs, and if there are any potential safety concerns. However, when a doctor prescribes a patient medication in an inappropriate manner, the patient could be injured or killed. A doctor in Michigan is facing charges after providing drugs that led to the deaths of three patients.

Dr. Hatem M. Ataya, of Flint, Michigan, saw patients at one of three medical clinics in Flint, Richfield, and Lapeer, Michigan. For a number of patients, Dr. Ataya prescribed methadone. However, according to investigators, he prescribed methadone in ‘medically inappropriate' manner. As a result, three patients died within a 6-month period from an overdose of methadone.

Dr. Ataya may have gone on prescribing dangerous drugs, but a local police officer noticed a pattern. After two patients died in January 2012, and a third died in July 2012, a Lapeer police investigator noticed all three had died of a methadone overdose, and all three were patients of Dr. Ataya. The local police department and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) began a joint investigation.

According to Lapeer County prosecutor Tim Turkelson, Ataya prescribed the methadone “in a manner that is not medically appropriate.” The drugs were provided on an as-needed basis, allowing patients to take too much at a time, or even sell the drug to others. The improper actions may have been going on for more than a year.

Methadone is a synthetic narcotic drug. It is primarily used to treat patients with an addiction to narcotics. Methadone can suppress heroin withdrawal symptoms for 24 to 36 hours. Methadone is also used to relieve severe pain in patients with terminal illnesses or cancer. Increasingly, methadone is being abused by people addicted to narcotics. The increased abuse of methadone may be due to the easy availability of the drug.

According to the DEA, methadone is a Schedule II drug. Schedule II drugs have a currently accepted medical use; however, they also have a high potential for abuse. Abuse can lead to severe psychological and physical dependence on the drug. Individuals who abuse methadone may suffer withdrawal symptoms when the stop taking the drug, including tremors, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and cramps.

When methadone is not prescribed or administered in a medically appropriate manner, patients can suffer an overdose. Methadone does not produce the euphoric rush associated with other narcotics, and because of this, patients may take dangerous quantities of methadone in an attempt to feel the high. A methadone overdose usually leads to severe respiratory depression, decreased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, coma, and eventually, death.

Dr. Ayata is facing three counts of delivery of a controlled substance causing death. Each count carries a possible sentence of life in prison. However, local investigators are also looking into at least two other overdose death cases, although no additional charges have been filed.

If you or a loved one have been injured as the result of a prescription drug mistake, the Gilman & Bedigian team is fully equipped to handle the complex process of filing a malpractice claim. Our staff, including a physician and attorneys with decades of malpractice litigation experience, will focus on getting you compensated, so you can focus on healing and moving forward.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm's litigation practice.  Briggs' legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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