Family Sues Pain Doctor, Say He is Responsible for 2 Overdose Deaths

Two families have filed wrongful death lawsuits this week against a pain medicine doctor, alleging that he helped cause the drug overdose deaths of their loved ones.

This week, the family of a 24-year-old woman filed a lawsuit against the pain medicine specialist, who had previously settled another wrongful death lawsuit and whose state medical license remains in jeopardy.  The physician helped run a pain clinic, which closed in June.

The victim’s lawsuit said that she went to the clinic for treatment of minor pain and the physician gave her Dilaudid and other medications. The suit says that the victim died of an overdose. Her obituary says she was a registered nurse and an aspiring model whose survivors included a daughter. The victim was engaged to be married and had already been accepted as a contestant in the Miss Iowa contest.

Also this week, the family of a 50-year-old man who died of an overdose of prescription pain pills in May 2011, filed a lawsuit. The suit says the pain medicine doctor was grossly negligent in prescribing 120 hydrocodone pills to the victim without properly examining him or thoroughly checking his medical history.

Both lawsuits are filed against the doctor and companies related to the clinic. Officials from the clinic said in June that they suspended the doctor’s license. The company officials announced in May that they would close the clinic at the end of June.  The officials from the pain clinic never explained the exact reasons why they shuttered the clinic, but stated that they helped the 1,800 patients seek new doctors. Several patients have stated that they struggled to find physicians willing to take on their complicated cases.

The clinic was one of the very few in that part of the state, specializing in the treatment of chronic pain. Not only did the clinic shut down because of the controversy involving this physician’s allegations, but abuse of prescription narcotic medications has become somewhat of a national epidemic, it is causing many physicians to shy away from treating chronic pain patients.

Last month, the state’s Board of Medicine filed administrative charges against the doctor, which could lead to suspension of his license. The Board said that he “indiscriminately or promiscuously prescribed, administered or dispensed drugs other than for a lawful purpose.” It also said that he failed to take or document proper action to assess the patient’s need for the narcotic drugs, to monitor the drugs for abuse or to take action when the patients violated agreements to take the medications properly.

The physician already had settled a wrongful death lawsuit. In that case, the family of a 63-year-old woman alleged that the physician mistakenly prescribed a tremendous amount of narcotics, which was administered through a medical pump in her body in 2010.  The case was settled for an undisclosed amount of money in June.

Another malpractice lawsuit is still pending. In that case, the woman claims that last year, the same physician botched the placement of a catheter he implanted with a pain pump, into her back.

In September the doctor was sued by the family of a 39-year-old man who died of an overdose of oxycodone. The suit says the doctor was “grossly negligent” in prescribing the narcotic painkiller without properly assessing the patient’s needs or setting up a plan to monitor or oversee his use of the pills.

This victim’s death was one of 8 cited by the prosecutors when they filed criminal charges of involuntary manslaughter against the doctor. The prosecutors accused the doctor of recklessly prescribing large amounts of narcotic painkillers to patients. The state board, which licenses physicians, also has filed administrative charges against the doctor, claiming that he failed to take precautions against abuse of the drugs.

The doctor denied wrongdoing but agreed not to resume practicing medicine while the criminal case proceeds. In return, the medical board agreed to put its case on hold.  The doctor claimed to have only seen the victim as a patient, once or twice and says that the victim saw other medical providers before and after his interaction with the doctor, although the doctor stated that he is not implying the fault of any other doctor for the vicitms’ death.

His obituary said he had two survivors, a 12-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son. He worked as an inspector of welds, including in oil fields, it said.

The lawsuit does not say why he sought treatment from the doctor who helped run the pain relief clinic.

It seems like this doctor prescribed a huge amount of painkillers to patients without documenting or monitoring their drug use. So many of his patients died from drug overdoses.  Do you think surrendering his medical license is enough of a punishment in the death of all these patients? Feel free to comment on this blog post.  Contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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