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New York jury awards $1.5 million to family of deceased patient

Prescriptions and medications are one of the many tools that doctors and medical staff have at their disposal to help heal the sick or injured. But just like other treatments and procedures, physicians and prescribing professionals must adhere to a certain standard of care when dolling out medicine. Medication errors, whether wrong dosages or the wrong medicine entirely, can have dire consequences for patients.

A New York doctor from the Syracuse area is faced legal charges after a patient using psychiatric drugs died. A jury accused him of causing the patient to commit suicide because he overmedicated him with the drugs. Pharmaceutical companies apparently paid the doctor big money to promote these medications to other physicians.

During the medical malpractice trial, the 61-year-old doctor admitted that he received over $200,000 over the course of nine years from pharmaceutical companies that paid him to encourage other doctors to prescribe their drugs. Unfortunately, this practice of doctors working as drug sponsors is not uncommon.

This isn't the first time doctor has seen trouble in his professional life. He was reprimanded by the state of New York earlier this year for his practice of writing prescriptions to patients without seeing them for an exam. He was also cited this year for alcohol and drug abuse.

Testimony revealed that the doctor prescribed many drugs, including antidepressants, to the patient and put him an overdose of medication before he committed suicide. Prescription continued for some 10 years without the doctor actually seeing the patient. The jury found in favor of the deceased patient's family and awarded them $1.5 million.

Although the practice of being a promoter for drug companies is not illegal for physicians, it does raise the question of whether doctors believe in the drug or are simply in it for the paycheck. Patients who are injured by drug errors stemming from this industry custom, should be able to recover compensation if the doctor or prescribing professional acted negligently in any way.

Source:, "Doc faulted for overmedicating patient made big bucks teaching other docs how to prescribe," James T. Mulder, Dec. 29, 2012

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