When does a death resulting from medical malpractice cross the line to a criminal charge of murder? Montana residents may have heard that an osteopathic surgeon in another state is currently facing multiple murder charges as well as at least one medical malpractice lawsuit for making severe medication errors.
The surgeon has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of nine patients. He has also been charged with the illegal distribution of drugs, resulting from allegedly excessive amounts of controlled substances he prescribed. The medications included muscle relaxers, painkillers and anxiety medications.
Eight of his patients overdosed on the medications. The ninth was killed in a car accident related to prescription drug use.
Following the doctor’s arrest on the criminal charges, the husband of one patient has filed a medical malpractice suit against the doctor, his physician assistant and a clinic. The suit alleges that the doctor prescribed about 600 pills to the patient leading to her death just two days later of drug toxicity.
Medical malpractice can take many forms. A failure to diagnose an illness that later claims the life of a patient could support a medical malpractice claim in some cases. Mistakes can also happen during a surgical procedure. But, while tragic, these errors rarely rise to a level that meets the legal standards for a murder charge.
Regardless of whether a medical error is prosecuted as a crime,
victims of medical malpractice, and their families, may have the right to file claims against their doctors to recover medical expenses and damages that were incurred as a result of the malpractice.
Source: The Oklahoman, "Former doctor accused of murder now faces malpractice suit in Oklahoma,” Matt Dinger, Feb. 27, 2014