Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Alleges that VA Doctors Overprescribed Antipsychotic Medications, Causing Woman’s Suicide: Grese v. United States of America

A woman’s lawsuit against the federal government alleges that incorrect diagnoses and incorrect dosages certain medications caused her sister’s suicide in 2010. The plaintiff in Grese v. United States is demanding $5 million in damages, claiming that doctors and other medical professionals with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) breached various professional standards of care by continuing to prescribe medications known to have harmful side effects after the decedent had already attempted suicide, and then by dispensing an excessive amount of a particular antipsychotic drug.

The decedent, Kelli Grese, committed suicide on November 12, 2010 by swallowing a large amount of the antipsychotic medication Seroquel. A few weeks before her death, according to the plaintiff’s complaint, doctors had increased her supply of the medication from thirty days to sixty days, and she almost immediately obtained a sixty-day supply. This gave her enough Seroquel to last 120 days under the earlier prescription, and it allegedly enabled her to commit suicide.

According to the Hampton Roads Daily Press, Grese was discharged from the U.S. Navy in 1997, and she began receiving treatment at the Hampton VA Medical Center during the 1990’s, with treatment for mental health issues beginning in 2008. She had diagnoses for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse, and attention-deficit disorder (ADD). The VA hospital treated her with counseling and medication. She received a diagnosis of severe depression in March 2009 after admission to a psychiatric hospital, with a designation as a suicide risk. She reportedly also suffered from paranoid delusions, recurrent psychosis, and major depressive disorder. After her discharge from the psychiatric hospital, the complaint alleges, the VA continued her existing treatment plan despite “obvious and clear deterioration in her psychological functioning.” Complaint at 4.

In 2010, doctors allegedly noted that Grese had begun hearing voices, and that she had a plan for suicide. She was also diagnosed with psychosis secondary to Adderall, which VA doctors had prescribed for her. Her Seroquel prescription was continued, according to the complaint, despite these observations. She attempted suicide by Seroquel overdose, and her VA records noted that she was a “moderate” suicide risk. Some time after this, she received the increased amount of Seroquel and successfully took her own life.

Grese’s sister, Darla Grese, filed suit against the United States in a Virginia federal court, pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, on behalf of Grese’s estate. The lawsuit alleges that employees and agents of the VA breached their standards of care and committed medical malpractice by prescribing stimulants to treat ADD without first testing her for other psychological conditions, and that this treatment led to Grese’s paranoid psychosis. It further alleges that VA employees failed to communicate with civilian psychiatrists at the psychiatric hospital regarding Grese’s condition and treatment, and that the VA failed to adjust or modify her treatment plan based on changes in her condition. Finally, the lawsuit alleges that the VA negligently continued Grese on Seroquel, despite its alleged association with increased suicide risk, and that it negligently dispensed an excessive amount of the drug to her just before her death.

The Maryland attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen can assist victims of medication errors, who have been injured by drugs prescribed, dispensed, or administered incorrectly. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.

Web Resources:

Complaint (PDF file), Case No. 4:12-cv-00049, Grese v. United States, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, Newport News Division, January 27, 2012

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