Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

VIP Syndrome and Possible Malpractice in Celebrity Death

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | Jul 15, 2016 | 0 Comments

Medical professionals should give all of their patients the same level of medical care and attention. They should not treat some patients better than others, or give patients preferential treatment. When doctors treat famous people, they should be able to act professionally, and offer the same care that they would any other patient. However, when doctors are dazzled by celebrity patients, they may make some terrible mistakes.

The famous singer, songwriter, and performer, Prince, died at his home on April 21, 2016. Immediately, speculation began about how the relatively young and active musician died. After a few weeks, the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office reported that Prince died of an opioid overdose. They claimed that he died of an accidental overdose of Fentanyl, a powerful prescription painkiller.

A few weeks earlier, Prince's plane made an emergency landing in Illinois. Prince was unconscious at the time the plane landed. Emergency personnel administered Narcan, which is used in cases of opioid overdoses. However, according to news reports, Prince was fighting off the flu or suffering severe dehydration.

Now, months after the star's death, the focus has turned towards his doctors. As a result of the musician's fame, his death may have been related to so-called “VIP Syndrome.” According to the psychologist who coined the term, VIP syndrome occurs when doctors treat certain patients as special, going outside the standard procedures. They may offer inappropriate accommodations, foregoing standard safety measures for the convenience of the star.

VIP syndrome has also been attributed to Michael Jackson's death and the death of Joan Rivers. Michael Jackson died after he was given propofol at home by his doctor, Conrad Murray. Murray was subsequently convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Joan Rivers' doctors were performing a routine procedure on Rivers when she went into cardiac arrest and died. One of the doctors had even taken a picture of the star with his phone, while she was sedated on the operating table.

The details behind Prince's death remain unclear. Law enforcement investigating the case have not said whether Prince had a prescription for the fentanyl, or which doctor prescribed the drug. However, it appears he was given special treatment by at least one doctor. An addiction specialist in California was contacted by Prince's representatives a few days before he died.

Dr. Howard Kornfeld had never examined Prince and was not licensed to prescribe medications or practice medicine in Minnesota. However, Kornfeld gave his son buprenorphine, intended for the treatment of addiction to narcotics. Kornfeld's son then traveled to Minnesota, to give the medications to an unknown physician. Instead, Kornfeld's son was one of three people who found Prince dead at his Minnesota home. The buprenorphine may have been intended for a local doctor to give to Prince. However, the local doctor was not licensed to prescribe that drug and did not say whether he prescribed Fentanyl to Prince when he saw him on the day before his death.

If you or a loved one was injured by a medical mistake, you may have a claim against your healthcare provider for the damages suffered. A medical malpractice claim may allow you to recover monetary damages for your medical bills, pain, and suffering. At Gilman & Bedigian we have been fighting for medical malpractice victims for decades, with a focus on getting you the compensation you deserve, so you can get better and move forward with your life.

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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