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Utah Supreme Court: Prescribers Can Be Held Liable for Actions of Medicated Patient

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The Utah Supreme Court has ruled that health care providers who prescribe medications can be sued for neglgence when a patient taking medications they prescribed injures or kills another person. In the Jeffs v. West decision, Justice Thomas Lee wrote, “Health care providers perform a societal function of undoubted social utility. But they are not entitled to an elevated status.” The judge went on to explain that medical professionals should take responsibility for the choices they make as health care experts whether results are good or bad.

The case was brought by representatives of two young children whose mother was murdered by their father while he was taking a combination of prescription medications, including the attention-deficit drug Concerta (methylphenidate-Janssen), testosterone, the antidepressant Paxil (paroxetine-GlaxoSmithKline) and Valium (diazepam-Roche). The man pleaded guilty to the crime but claimed he would not have harmed his wife had he not been so heavily medicated. A nurse practitioner who issued the man's prescriptions, her physician supervisor and the clinic where the nurse doctor worked were named as defendants in the wrongful death lawsuit.

Most of us blindly accept the prescriptions our doctors recommend for us without taking the time to consider side effects. We trust in doctors', nurses' and pharmacists' expertise and assume they would never prescribe a treatment that could harm us.

Health care providers need to protect patients from dangerous drug interactions. As a Virginia (VA) personal injury attorney, I applaud the Utah Supreme Court for this decision and hope it stands as a precedent for other states.

CD

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.