settlement of 25 million in lethal psychiatric drug overdose

In 2006, a four-year-old girl died from an overdose of psychiatric drugs. Even though the girl’s parents were the main culprits in her death, the doctor who prescribed the medications and whose care the girl was supposedly under shared responsibility for her death.

The tragedy came about because the girl’s parents were faking mental illnesses in the girl and her two siblings. The psychiatrist treating all three children should have been able to detect that the parents were faking their children’s supposed mental illnesses, and she should have been able to detect the medication error when the children were being given incorrect doses of medication.

The girl’s estate sued the psychiatrist for medical malpractice, and the case recently settled out of court. Even though the psychiatrist admitted no wrongdoing, she and her medical malpractice insurer agreed to pay the girl’s estate $2.5 million.  

The girl’s psychiatrist was employed by Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Mass. The parents wanted to fake psychiatric illness in the children so that they could collect federal disability checks for the children’s “mental and behavioral disorders.”

At the parents’ criminal trials, the doctor testified that she had been fooled by the parents into believing that the children had psychiatric illnesses. She claimed that she followed standard practices of child psychiatry. She also said she had no idea that the parents were overdosing the children.

When the girl died, the doctor made a voluntary agreement with the Board of Registration of Medicine to halt her practice. However, when a grand jury declined to indict the doctor, the licensing board allowed her to return to practice in 2008. She has been seeing patients at Tufts Medical Center over the past year.

The $2.5 million settlement will go to the girl’s two siblings, who are now fifteen and ten years old. The girl’s parents are in prison, each convicted of murder for the reckless dispensing of drugs that killed their daughter.

Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorneys who see cases like these note that there is an important point in this tragedy: even though the doctor in this case was not the one who bore the most responsibility for her patient’s death, she still had a duty to provide proper care to her patient, and she still shares responsibility for what happened to this innocent little girl. 

Source: Boston Globe “Tufts settles suit against doctor in girl’s death for $2.5m” 1/25/2011

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