November 16, 2012

A female Navy veteran who was discharged from active military service in 1997 and had been receiving medical care at the Hampton Veterans Medical Center in Virginia (“VA Medical Center”) since the 1990s, committed suicide on November 12, 2010 by ingesting her prescription medication Seroquel, which was prescribed for her major depression, paranoid delusions, psychosis, and symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. She was known to have attempted suicide by ingesting Seroquel on three separate occasions within the eight months prior to her death.

According to the federal medical malpractice lawsuit filed by the veteran’s sister in the U.S. District Court in Newport News, Virginia that alleges that the VA Medical Center breached the standard of care and that the breach led to the veteran’s death, the woman’s usual 30 day supply of Seroquel was increased to a 60 day supply on October 19, 2010. On October 20, 2010, the woman was provided with a refill of Seroquel (an additional 60 day supply). The medical malpractice claim alleges that the woman took nearly her entire 120 day supply of Seroquel in a successful suicide attempt, on November 12, 2010.

The veteran had been diagnosed with major depression and was classified as a suicide risk  in March, 2009. The VA Medical Center was aware of the diagnoses, was aware of the suicidal classification, and was aware of the three prior suicide attempts by the veteran ingesting Seroquel, before the VA Medical Center increased the veteran’s prescription for Seroquel from a 30 day supply to a 60 day supply and then refilled the 60 day prescription only one day after providing the veteran with a 60 day supply of Seroquel. Hence, the VA Medical Center had provided the veteran with four times her normal supply of Seroquel — a woman who believed that people were trying to hurt her and that the CIA had her under constant surveillance.

The federal medical malpractice lawsuit seeks $5 million in damages for the wrongful death of the veteran. The federal medical malpractice trial is scheduled to begin before a federal judge on April 9, 2013 (federal tort claims, such as medical malpractice claims involving U.S. employees and agents acting within the scope of their employment or on behalf of the U.S., must be filed in the federal courts (not state courts) and are decided by a federal judge (not by a jury)). The U.S. denies that its employees or agents acted in a negligent manner that led to the veteran’s death by suicide two years ago.


Consider this: if a person is known to be suicidal and had attempted to shoot himself on three separate occasions within the very recent past, would one consider it to be negligence, at the very least, to knowingly and voluntarily supply the person with a gun and an ample supply of bullets? It seems that the VA Medical Center figuratively did just that when it handed to the suicidal patient a vast supply of pills that she had previously used in three attempts at suicide during the past eight months.

While the veteran may have successfully committed suicide even if the 120 Seroquel pills not been provided to her all at one time, the provision of  the massive supply of pills to the veteran may have seemed like an invitation to her to use them in a successful suicide attempt (of course, we do not know what was going through the veteran’s mind when she received the vast quantity of pills over a two-day period). We would also like to know why the veteran’s prescription was suddenly increased from a 30 day supply to a 60 day supply — was it somehow or in some way intended to be for the convenience of the veteran?

If you or a loved one may have been injured (or worse) as a result of medical treatment provided (or not provided) at a veteran’s hospital in the United States, you should promptly contact a local medical malpractice attorney who may be able to assist you in filing a federal medical malpractice claim. There are many legal hoops that claimants must timely jump through in pursuing federal medical malpractice claims that make it all the more important to promptly arrange to consult with a medical malpractice attorney who handles federal medical malpractice claims.

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