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Overdose death sparks medical malpractice, wrongful death claim

As service members return to New Mexico from combat missions, many in the medical field are turning their attention to making sure veterans are mentally healthy. In the case of one Navy veteran, however, doctors may have made a fatal oversight.

Though this particular veteran did not see active combat, she still developed post-traumatic stress disorder as the result of an incident while on active duty. When she returned home, she dealt with severe anxiety and depression. As a result, she was prescribed Seroquel, an antipsychotic drug.

Despite two suicide attempts, doctors continued to prescribe large quantities of the medication, which has been known to produce "suicidal thoughts or actions." Tragically, the woman attempted suicide once more by overdosing on Seroquel. She passed away.

Now, the woman's sister, who is also a Navy veteran, is pursuing a medical malpractice claim for wrongful death. According to the woman and her legal representatives, the doctors should have been much more cautious about prescribing so much Seroquel to a person with a history of suicide attempts and drug-seeking behavior.

In response to the legal claim, the woman's doctors say that the drug they prescribed is not particularly potent, so it is safe in small doses.

Despite this response, the sister hopes to hold the medical providers responsible for issuing treatment that eventually led to the woman's death. She cannot understand why doctors would prescribe large amounts of drugs given the woman's medical history.

When doctors make medical decisions, especially for high-risk patients, it is important that their well-being is considered with every action. When doctors fail to exercise necessary caution, their negligence can have catastrophic results.

Source: The Virginian-Pilot, "After Navy vet's suicide, sister sues VA hospital," Bill Sizemore, Nov. 13, 2012

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