According to this article out of Syracuse, NY, a jury awarded $1,500,000 to the survivors (and their attorneys) after the suicide of teacher/coach Joe Mazella. The plaintiffs argued that Mazella's family doctor prescribed paroxetine for as long as 10 years and that he was negligent in doing so with little or no contact then abandoned the patient who killed himself without even telling his wife of his plan and after hospitalization and change in medication.
Anti-drug "reform" psychiatrist Peter Breggin wrote here about his testimony for the plaintiffs:
- The family doctor had increased the dose of paroxetine to 40 mg and added olanzapine after a telephone consultation.
- He criticized the family doctor for not warning Mazella about the "serious risks" associated with the drug (despite that fact that he had been taking the drug for 10 years!)
- "I also concluded that a hospital psychiatrist was negligent in not recognizing that Mr. Mazella was suffering from adverse drug effects and in discharging him without proper followup two weeks before his death."
In neither article could I find any basis for establishing a causal link to the suicide either with the admittedly negligent prescribing or the drugs themselves. Apparently Dr. Breggin finds it sufficient that one has taken such drugs prior to the suicide: post hoc ergo propter hoc.
Even the widow is quoted as saying, "He’d given no hint that he was suicidal, but he was complaining often about the effects of his medications, Janice Mazella said."
I might have testified for the defense:
- There is no evidence that any of the medications contributed to the suicide. Mazella's suicide resulted from his own wish to die, and nothing else. We will never know what motivated him to such a tragic choice.
- Nothing the family physician did or did not do contributed to the suicide. The hospital physicians assumed responsibility for his care after the family doctor discharged him. Even if this discharge somehow constituted abandonment his hospitalization obviated further need for involvement by the family physician. Mazella had apparently stopped the paroxetine prescribed by the family physician prior to killing himself. Perhaps he should have continued the drug.
- The hospital physicians could not assure that Mazella followed up at the appropriate interval with another physician after discharge. That was the responsibility of Mazella and the physician of his choice.
- If the drugs made Mazella feel so bad he should have stopped taking them on his own or at least sought consultation with another physician.
- For anyone to have stopped Mazella from killing himself required that they have contact with him during the time between his first thoughts of suicide but before the act, and that he tell them he intended to kill himself. Perhaps Dr. Breggin could have saved him had he been living with him 24/7!
According to the first article, "Janice Mazella said she hopes the verdict sends a message to patients and their loved ones to be careful about doctors overmedicating." It certainly does. It sends the message that if you kill yourself while taking the right medications, prescribed by a doctor with a good malpractice insurance policy, your survivors may be better off financially than they would have been had you remained alive.
Breggin calls Mazella's death the "tragic outcome" of use of prescribed antidepressant drugs. We may never know how many suicides occur among those who people like Breggin has frightened away from getting the treatment that could have saved them. But if your loved one kills herself after reading Breggin's propaganda and failing to get treatment, I want to be your expert witness.