As a follow-up to our blog on November 16, 2012 entitled, “Family Of Navy Veteran Sues Virginia VA Medical Center After Her Suicide,” we are satisfied to report that on February 19, 2013, the U.S. government settled the medical malpractice case involving the Hampton (Virginia) Veterans Administration Medical Center arising out of the death of a Navy veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression who took her own life on Veterans Day in 2010. The medical malpractice case was filed by the Navy veteran’s twin sister, also a Navy veteran, seeking $5 million in damages for the death of the woman. The medical malpractice trial before a U.S. federal judge was scheduled to begin in April 2013, but will be canceled if the judge approves the $100,000 settlement.
The federal medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the Hampton Veterans Administration Medical Center (“V.A. Medical Center”) had prescribed thousands of doses of anti-psychotic medications, sedatives, and anti-depressant medications for the Navy veteran, including 5,370 Klonopin pills during a one-year period (Klonopin is used to treat anxiety disorders). The death occurred as a result of an overdose of the anti-psychotic medication Seroquel, which was taken by the veteran along with the various other medications prescribed by the V.A. Medical Center.
The medical malpractice plaintiff observed that the medications prescribed for her sister at the V.A. Medical Center actually made her more fearful and more anxious, thereby leading to additional diagnoses and additional medications to treat the additional diagnoses. The plaintiff had attempted to intervene on her sister’s behalf by requesting that the V.A. Medical Center’s doctors stop prescribing Seroquel after her sister attempted to commit suicide by ingesting Seroquel on three separate occasions during an eight-month period.
While the U.S. government has refused to acknowledge liability for the Navy veteran’s death, the plaintiff’s medical malpractice lawyer hopes that the medical malpractice case and its settlement will “shine a light on what we’re doing to our vets. Because of this, people are going to look a little more closely about what we’re doing with the drugs and our vets.” The plaintiff added, “At the end of the day, I don’t have my sister anymore, but I have her story.”
With many of our veterans returning from overseas deployments suffering from service-related mental disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder, and depression, it is imperative that our heroes be offered and have available to them appropriate and timely treatment options and that their care and treatment be properly supervised and modified as necessary. It is not enough to hand pills to veterans who seek treatment for mental disabilities through VA medical centers throughout the country; they must readily have available to them trained health care providers who have the ability to provide necessary inpatient therapy or outpatient treatment, where appropriate.
When we ask for so much sacrifice from our military personnel, we must compensate their efforts on our behalf with the availability of necessary services upon their return to civilian life. That is the least that we, as a country, owe each and every veteran.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries or other harms as a result of care provided (or not provided) at a VA medical center or otherwise through the VA, you should promptly seek the advice of a local medical malpractice attorney who handles such claims and issues.
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