Primary Care Provider Allegedly Negligent in Treating Depression; Patient Suicide, Altered Documentation Lead to $1M Settlement

November 26, 2018 | Strategic Insights for Ambulatory Care


​A provider in Massachusetts has resolved allegations of negligently treating a patient's depression and altering the patient's medical record after the patient committed suicide, in a $1 million settlement, according to a report from Zarin's Medical Liability Alert (subscription required). The 45-year-old female patient was a longtime patient of the defendant primary care physician. In May 2008, the defendant prescribed her an antidepressant. Before this appointment, the patient had no history of depression or anxiety and her medical record did not describe any mental health issues. The defendant examined the patient four more times over the next three months. On August 8, 2008, the patient's husband discovered that his wife had committed suicide. He brought suit against the primary care physician. The plaintiff was prepared to present expert testimony suggesting that, because the patient had no prior mental health history, prescribing an antidepressant without first considering nondrug alternatives such as psychological counseling and treatment "could qualify as a deviation" from the standard of care. The plaintiff's experts also opined, alternatively, that that the standard of care required the physician to prescribe other medications in addition to an antidepressant to stabilize the patient's mental state and "allow the anti-depressant medication to work properly."

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