Dr. Peter Breggin often acts as a psychiatric and medical expert or as a consultant in criminal, malpractice, product liability and class action suits. This page presents a list of over 70 of his more interesting and successful trials and settlements.
In greatly updating this legal page in early December 2017, Dr. Breggin was able to retrieve information about most of his trial successes since 1986, but not before that time. Unfortunately, information about many dozens of cases successfully settled before going to trial has not been easy to locate, and only a few are listed. Many of Dr. Breggin’s most interesting cases are described in detail in his book, Medication Madness: the Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide and Crime.
Based on his experience over 50 years, bolstered by his many scientific books and articles, Dr. Breggin is among the most experienced psychiatric experts in the world. He also maintains a private practice in Ithaca, New York.
Dr. Breggin has been a consultant or testified in many high profile cases, such as the Columbine High School and Aurora Theater mass murders and the recent Michelle Carter case—the girl who alleged “texted her boyfriend to death.” He has also been a consultant to the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) on adverse drug effects on pilots.
Based in part on his expertise adverse drug effects, he has not only been qualified innumerable times to testify in malpractice cases against psychiatrists, but also against doctors in many other specialties such as general practice, pediatrics, internal medicine, neurology and neurosurgery, as well as non-physician healthcare providers.
Dr. Breggin’s testimony has involved every class of psychiatric drug, including antidepressants, benzodiazepine tranquilizers, sleeping aids, antipsychotic drugs, stimulants for children diagnosed ADHD. Many cases involve polydrug administration, often involving non-psychiatric drugs as well.
He has testified or consulted on many other cases involving non-psychiatric drugs that have caused brain damage, death and other injuries including psychiatric or neurological crises caused by the following: antibiotics such as Bactrim and Accutane; antiviral agents; cardiovascular medications; Tegretol, opioids and other drugs used to treat pain; and neuroleptics used for non-psychiatric purposes such as Compazine and Phenergan for nausea and vertigo. He has testified or consulted about medication-induced diabetes, cardiovascular problems, fetal developmental abnormalities, and infant and child exposure to Reglan (metoclopramide).
Cases often include drug-induced tardive dyskinesia, neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS), serotonin syndrome, suicide, violence, and death from drugs.
He has testified concerning standards for prescribing in private practice, clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, and the Veterans Administration (VA).
He has testified on behalf of parents when mental facilities, state agencies and courts have tried to force them to give psychiatric drugs to their children or elderly parents.
The following list of Dr. Peter Breggin’s experiences in legal cases does not include the very large number of those that have settled on the condition of secrecy. For example, one of his malpractice cases in which he was the sole medical expert resulted in the largest settlement of its kind ever, but required him to remain silent about it.
In digital form, each legal case in the following list is linked to additional information. The digital form can be retrieved at breggin.com/resume.
2018: State of Ohio v. Luebrecht. January 4, 2018. In the court of common pleas of Putnam County, Ohio. Case No. 2005CR0047. A man on increasing doses of Wellbutrin and Effexor, as well as on Ativan and Zyprexa, drowned his 14-month old son in a bathtub. This was an appeal for a new trial based on new scientific evidence, asking the court “to set aside its judgment of conviction, and permit Defendant to withdraw his previously tendered plea of guilty to correct a manifest injustice.”
2018: Durand v. Sarver Family Practice. May 29, 2018. Court of Common Pleas of Butler County, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. No. 2014-10067. Daubert-like hearing testimony. A 20-year old man committed suicide after starting Zoloft.
2018: Durand v. Sarver Family Practice. June 19, 2018. Court of Common Pleas of Butler County, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. No.:2014-10067. Trial testimony. A 20-year old man committed suicide after starting Zoloft.
2017: Michelle Carter, who was seventeen at the time, was tried for allegedly “killing her boyfriend with words” by encouraging him to re-enter his truck filled with carbon monoxide. The trial resulted in a conviction of manslaughter, followed by a very light sentence. After testifying, and when the trial was over, Dr. Breggin wrote a blog series about the injustice of the conviction and true, tragic story of two young people texting each other in isolation while struggling with disturbed emotions and the negative effects of antidepressant drugs.
2017: Judge reduces sentence in armed robbery under influence of Prozac intoxication and withdrawal from opioids. Commonwealth of Virginia vs. James Foringer. June 21, 2017, Circuit Court in Roanoke, Virginia. A respected reverend was charged with using a gun in a holdup. The impulsive act was committed in daylight at a pharmacy where he was well-known and easily identified as customer who had previously stopped by earlier in the day. Dr. Breggin testified that Rev. Foringer was suffering from an involuntary intoxication under the influence of a recently increased dose of Prozac and an overdose of prescribed oxycodone to which he was addicted. Dr. Breggin further testified that the two drugs have a special interaction that heightens their combined adverse effects. The defense attorney felt the judge lightened the sentence because of Dr. Breggin’s testimony.
2014: Suicide malpractice Prozac and Xanax suicide settled for $250,000 during my testimony.
2014: Trial of a man on Paxil who shot and wounded his wife and friend results with hung jury on one count of attempted murder and not guilty on the second count. Instead of aggravated assault charges, found Guilty But Mentally Ill.
2012: Dr. Breggin was qualified in Canada as a psychiatrist to testify against psychiatrists in a malpractice suit involving head injury and the administration of psychiatric drugs in outpatient and inpatient practice, including the antidepressants Prozac and Effexor, resulting in a serotonin syndrome. For reasons beyond the legal arena, the case never went forward.
2012: A nursing home recognized an elderly woman’s right to reject psychiatric medication and when she died of unrelated causes, the family sued for multimillions. After Dr. Breggin’s deposition for the defense about how the patient lived longer as a result of being free of psychiatric medications, the nursing home was able to settle on very good terms. No other information can be made available on this case.
2009: Judge awards $696,674 against Southern California Kaiser Permanente Medical Group in binding arbitration for death related to Tegretol for pain.
2009: Virginia Court of Appeals affirms jury verdict in the Salters ECT case on grounds that Dr. Breggin is “an expert in ECT” and cites his testimony on the standard of care and damages in affirming the jury verdict.
2007: Appeals Court Confirms $635,000 Trial Win by citing Dr. Peter Breggin’s testimony and credentials as an expert in ECT.
2006: in a New Jersey malpractice case focused on Prozac and Xanax, a businessman settled for $250,000 when it was offered during Dr. Breggin’s testimony.
2005: Another Paxil/GSK product liability case settled. This is the case that made public Dr. Breggin’s previously sealed 2002 Lacuzong Report (see below).
2005: $635,000 in first-ever electroshock (ECT) malpractice trial victory.
2005: In New Mexico , Dr. Breggin testified by telephone in a hearing about the over-medication of a child. Per Dr. Breggin’s testimony, the judge ordered the medication stopped and authorized Dr. Breggin’s further evaluation.
2004: In New York State, Dr. Breggin testified concerning the incompetency of an elderly woman with dementia, which the judge then confirmed. She required a determination of incompetency in order to be protected from an abusive caretaker.
2004: in a criminal case in Pennsylvania, Dr. Breggin testified by video deposition concerning the role of Paxil and other SSRIs in causing violent and suicidal behavior. The jury hung on one count of attempted murder and found him not guilty on the second count. He was found Guilty But Mentally Ill on aggravated assault charges.
2004: Trial of man who shot and wounded his wife and a friend resulted in hung jury on one count of attempted murder and not guilty on the second count. Guilty but mentally ill on aggravated assault charges.
2004: Jury awarded $200,000 to a mentally retarded woman was treated with neuroleptics from age 18-22 and developed tardive dyskinesia.
2003: Three Alabama police officers were wounded (none seriously) in a shoot-out with a man taking Paxil. Dr. Breggin testified that the accused developed akathisia and a brief paranoid psychosis before the shoot out and that the psychosis resulted from a mixture of Paxil withdrawal and toxicity. In trial immediately before my testimony, the state initiated and offered a remarkable plea bargain: three first-degree attempted murder charges were reduced to assault, plus he received a reduced sentence.
2003: in the State of Washington, a man developed tardive dyskinesia after being treated older and newer antipsychotic drugs. The trial ended with a hung jury. This is Dr. Breggin’s only failure to be on the winning side in many trials of adult tardive dyskinesia cases.
2003: A respected man in Pennsylvania drove his automobile into an unsuspecting policeman to knock him down to obtain his gun to commit suicide. Based on Dr. Breggin’s report concerning Paxil, the injured police officer and the state’s attorney joined in requesting his release after approximately one year in jail and a reduction in his overall sentence to 1-2 years, with 8 years probation.
2003: A child prescribed multiple psychiatric medications, including antipsychotics from an early age, suffered developmental delays and tardive dyskinesia. Dr. Breggin testified that the TD he diagnosed years earlier was largely resolved by trial. One of the defendants settled prior to trial and the other two prevailed in trial.
2002: $7.5 million in first-ever psychosurgery malpractice trial victory ($7.5 million against Cleveland Clinic).
2002: Massive Lacuzong Paxil product liability suit settled in January against GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Lacuzong drowned himself and his two small children in a bathtub immediately after starting Paxil and developing akathisia (a dangerous psychomotor agitation). The heart of the successful case was Dr. Breggin’s lengthy expert opinion and report based on his three-day onsite investigation of GSK’s secret files. Unfortunately, the settlement sealed Dr. Breggin’s large Lacuzong report. Then in 2006, in another Paxil/GSK productive liability suit involving Dr. Breggin, a new judge opened Dr. Breggin’s report to the public. In quick succession, Dr. Breggin published three detailed scientific reports on Paxil-induced violence, suicide and akathisia, as well as the negligence and fraud perpetrated by GSK in developing and marketing Paxil. Here are the first, second, and third published reports. Here is Dr. Breggin’s original Lacuzong report that led to the settlement with GSK in 2002 and to later settlements by the company.
2002: In a Massachusetts case, a Medical Tribunal found in favor of the Plaintiff, stating that Dr. Breggin had raised sufficient concern about the long-term administration of the benzodiazepine “to raise a legitimate question of liability appropriate for judicial inquiry.”
2001: Judge reduces sentence in violent assault related to effects of Prozac, Remeron, and BuSpar.
2001: In Virginia in a criminal violence case , Dr. Breggin sent a letter to a judge for a sentencing hearing reaffirming his trial concerning the harmful effects of Prozac, Remeron, and BuSpar. The judge gave a reduced sentence, and in his written opinion cited Dr. Breggin’s testimony.
2001: In South Carolina a sentencing hearing for a 27 year old man with no prior history of violence who pleaded guilty to rape charges, Dr. Breggin presented evidence that Paxil can cause mania with disinhibition and aggressive sexuality. The judge concluded that Paxil contributed to the crime Instead of sentencing him to life without parole, he gave him a more limited 21-year sentence.
2001: A woman was treated antipsychotic drugs developed severe tardive dyskinesia and tardive dystonia. The case was settled satisfactorily in favor of the plaintiff before it went to the jury.
2001: After the 1998 case of the man who shot the policeman, Dr. Breggin testified on the man’s behalf in a malpractice suit against the hospital and the doctor who had inflicted outpatient electroshock treatment upon him while he was taking Prozac, Ritalin, the benzodiazepine Klonopin, BuSpar, and Depakote. After the completion of most of Dr. Breggin’s testimony, the judge called a brief recess, and defendant hospital settled the case without cross-examining him. The doctor had settled earlier in the trial.
2000: In West Virginia, the parents of a twelve-year-old boy wanted to remove him from involuntary treatment with multiple drugs at a state facility. Based on his medical reports, the judge allowed the parents to take him home and empowered Dr. Breggin to supervise his outpatient treatment.
2000: A man injured in a car accident while driving himself home after an MRI sued his neurologist for prescribing too large a dose of the sedative Ativan and sued the MRI center for letting him leave while heavily sedated. The plaintiff was awarded $840, 000.
2000: A father wanted custody of his nine-year-old son in order to remove him from residential treatment and to withdraw him from multiple psychiatric medications. Dr. Breggin wrote an emergency medical report for the judge, including his finding that the child had early signs of tardive dyskinesia. The judge followed Dr. Breggin’s recommendations and custody was awarded to the father and Dr. Breggin was empowered to consult long-distance with a primary care doctor who followed his instructions on ow to withdraw the child from psychiatric drugs.
1998: Appeals Court Shocks Defense: Raises TD award to over $2 Million.
1998: In Missouri, the jury reached a verdict of “Not Guilty By Reason of Diminished Capacity” in the case of man who had stood in front of his house with a pistol in each hand and fired upon a parked patrol car occupied by his wife and by a police officer who was slightly injured and returned fire. The morning of the incident, the defendant had received the second in a series of electroshock treatments for depression on an outpatient basis. He was also taking five prescribed psychiatric medications, including Prozac.
1998: In Virginia, a man pled guilty to several daylight home burglaries for drugs over a few day time period. At sentencing, Dr. Breggin testified on the effects of psychiatric drugs, as well as premature discharge from a drug rehab hospitalization. The judge, following Dr. Breggin’s testimony, lightened his sentence, specifying that the purpose was to initiation of rehabilitation.
1998: In Chicago, a man committed suicide while taking the benzodiazepine sleeping pill, Halcion. The drug company, Upjohn, settled prior to trial. In the malpractice trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff $1.2 million.
1998: A fourteen-year-old girl in Florida was charged with first-degree attempted murder when her gun misfired. Dr. Breggin testified on involuntary intoxication with Prozac. The jury came back with a conviction on a lesser charge and the girl served a relatively brief sentence in a residential setting without jail time.
1997: In Fairfax, Virginia a young man taking multiple psychiatric drugs assaulted a policeman. Dr. Breggin raised a successful involuntary intoxication defense. This was a first in Virginia.
1997: A teenage boy committed murder while on the antidepressant Zoloft. Dr. Breggin testified in trial concerning hospital negligence and adverse medication effects and the boy was found guilty of first-degree murder. On appeal, the verdict was reversed on grounds that Dr. Breggin’s testimony offered sufficient evidence of involuntary intoxication to require a specific jury instruction.
1997: In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a woman developed tardive dyskinesia and the jury awarded $1.3 million. In 1998, the case was appealed and in an unusual turn of events, the appeals court nearly doubled the award to the plaintiff to over $2 million.
1997: In North Carolina, a man taking the antidepressant Effexor was charged with violent crimes that could have added up to several life sentences. The judge accepted Dr. Breggin’s report on involuntary intoxication from Effexor and the case was disposed satisfactorily to the defense by a plea bargain.
1996: In Iowa City, Iowa, a woman named Rohovit was injured by electroshock treatment. She sued the manufacturer of the ECT machine (MECHTA) and the company settled.
1994: While taking Prozac, a man assaulted his neighbor. The court accepted Dr. Breggin’s written report on adverse effects of the antidepressant Prozac including violence, and the judge accepted a lesser plea and released the man from jail.
1994: A Virginia man committed a very violent murder while intoxicated with a variety of medical and non-medical drugs. The jury rejected the state’s first-degree murder charge and convicted on second degree.
1994: Kentucky Supreme Court Overturns Verdict for Lilly in Prozac Mass Murder Trial (Fentress v. Eli Lilly). In the early 1990s Dr. Breggin was selected by a consortium of attorneys and approved by an Indiana federal judge to be the sole scientific and medical expert for the common scientific and negligence issues for all of the more than 100 combined Prozac-related cases brought against the manufacturer, Eli Lilly and Company (makers of Prozac®). Specifically, Dr. Breggin was appointed to evaluate for the plaintiffs the scientific basis for the claim that Prozac was causing violence and suicide, and to evaluate the drug company’s potential negligence in the development and marketing of Prozac, including any attempts to hide the risk of Prozac-induced suicide and violence. He also evaluated some individual cases for their merit. The first Prozac case to come to trial was the mass murder perpetrated by Joseph Wesbecker at his former workplace, which occurred shortly after he became psychotic on Prozac. The jury was nearly hung but gave a split decision in favor of Lilly.
After the trial, the Kentucky Supreme Court and the trial judge determined that the trial had been fixed between the plaintiff and defendant. Dr. Breggin began to suspect a fixed trial before the trial took place because critical documents were being withheld from him as the expert.
In return for untold millions of dollars, plaintiff’s attorney had conspired with Lilly to throw the trial in Lilly’s favor. Although profoundly disillusioning to experience the fraud, Dr. Breggin’s role as the scientific expert for the combined Lilly cases gave him a unique understanding of how to research and to evaluate product liability lawsuits, including the internal processes of drug companies and the FDA. The story is told in greatest detail in Dr. Breggin’s book Medication Madness with multiple citations documenting the fraud.
1993: In New Jersey v. Biegenwald, I testified in the sentencing phase of a capital case against giving the death penalty to a man who had impulsively and brutally killed several individuals in fights over a several year period. I testified about his Bellevue psychiatric hospital records, where he was sent as a child for truancy from a malfunctioning family. At Bellevue at the age of ten, Biegenwald committing his first known aggressive act when the child “attacked” the doctor who had given him ECT (electroconvulsive treatment). At that time, ECT was done without anesthesia and muscle paralyzing drugs. I obtained historical films from the National Library of Medicine and played them for the jury, showing adults undergoing ECT during the same time as the child Biegenwald. The shock treatment knocked the patients out, traumatizing them into massive body-shaking convulsions. As the jurors watched the film, I reminded them to imagine this same violent “treatment” being inflicted on a small child rather than an adult as in the film. I explained how damaging the treat was (and still is). I then concluded by asking the jury, if society had driven Biegenwald the child to violence with electrical trauma, should now we now finish him off by killing him with electrical trauma. The jury rejected the death penalty.
1992: A child developed tardive dyskinesia after treatment with antipsychotic drugs. After deposition testimony, the judge affirmed Dr. Breggin’s status as an expert and the drug company and healthcare providers settled.
1991: The Supreme Court of New York County used Dr. Breggin’s expert report, citing it for several pages, to reject an ECT manufacturer’s request for summary judgment in the product liability case against them. The case then settled.
1991: An elderly man involuntarily hospitalized since his teenage years and now suffering from post-traumatic dementia brought an action to be released from St. Elizabeths Hospital in DC on the grounds that he was not mentally ill and chose a jury trial. Dr. Breggin testified on the effects of physical and sexual abuse in the hospital throughout his lifetime hospital stay from his teenage to his elder years. Dr. Breggin also testified on the impact of multiple medications, electroshock, repeated sexual abuse, and chronic institutionalization on a teenager, adult, and elder. The jury found for the patient, declaring that he was not mentally ill, and by implication, that he was being abused. The judge ordered the hospital to facilitate his release to a less restrictive environment.
1991: A man was injured by psychosurgery that was again performed by Harvard psychosurgeon H.T. Ballantine and Dr. Breggin again testified. The psychosurgeon prevailed but the case contributed to his being unable to continue practicing. See similar case against him in 1987.
1991: A Canadian Court, without Dr. Breggin appearing, cited as “authorities referred to” his paper “Brain damage, dementia, and persistent cognitive dysfunction associated with neuroleptic drugs: Evidence, etiology, and implications,” his 1990 article in the Journal of Mind and Behavior.
1989: A North Carolina clinic was sued for the death of a young man who was not medicated by the clinic. Dr. Breggin testified in trial on behalf of the clinic’s treatment and the clinic prevailed.
1988: Tardive dyskinesia case won in Anchorage Alaska with Dr. Breggin pitted against an array of the establishments leading experts for the defense.
1987: A man was injured by psychosurgery performed by Harvard psychosurgeon H.T. Ballantine. Dr. Breggin testified on the standard of care and effects of psychosurgery. The jury found for the plaintiff, but the case contributed to Harvard psychosurgeon H T. Ballantine soon being unable to continue practicing. See similar case against him in 1991.
1987: A woman sued the manufacturer of an electroconvulsive shock machine in New York State. The judge cited Dr. Breggin’s report to reject the ECT manufacturer’s request for summary judgment and the case was settled.
1987: A teenage boy was mistreated in a Texas residential facility where he was sent by the District of Columbia. Dr. Breggin testified concerning his medication, restraint, involuntary status, and hospital treatment. The judge removed the boy from the Texas hospital and required the District of Columbia to provide him outpatient care.
1986: Marjorie Allen White v. Bernard Bressler, MD, Duke University Medical Center, et al., (Cleveland County Superior Court). This is the first of two cases against Bressler and Duke which Dr. Breggin evaluated for negligence and damages. According to the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers, “this is one of the largest medical malpractice non-structured settlements (the settlement is confidential) involving a non-physical injury in North Carolina history.” The cases surrounding Bernard Bressler have also been called “one of the largest malpractice settlements in North Carolina history.” According to the plaintiff’s attorney, the case was settled for “more than $1,000,000.”
Bressler was accused of massively overdosing the patient and abusing her in various ways. Dr. Breggin played a key role in allowing the Marjorie White case to go forward. He wrote a detailed scientific report arguing that statute of limitations should not have tolled because Bressler sent the patient for psychosurgery (a form of lobotomy called cingulotomy) that made her incapable of bringing a suit. See the very similar Betty Jordan case (below)
1986: Betty Jordan v. Dr. Bernard Bressler, Duke University Medical Center, et al., (Guilford County Superior Court). This was an action filed for psychiatric malpractice, hospital negligence, and corporate negligence. The case is significant in that it involved numerous alleged acts of corporate and individual medical malpractice. Bressler was accused of massively overdosing the patient and abusing her in various ways. In accordance with the terms of a confidential settlement agreement, the plaintiff can only report that the case was “resolved.” The cases surrounding Bernard Bressler have been called “one of the largest malpractice settlements in North Carolina history.” Dr. Breggin played a key role in allowing the Betty Jordan case to go forward. He wrote a detailed scientific report arguing that statute of limitations should not have tolled because Bressler sent the patient for psychosurgery (a form of lobotomy called cingulotomy) that made her incapable of bringing a suit. See the very similar Betty Jordan case (above).
1972: Landmark Kaimowitz case ends psychosurgery in state hospitals, VA and NIH.
M. N. G. (Graham) Dukes, MD
Physician and Attorney
Author: The Law and Ethics of the Pharmaceutical Industry
Read Entire Quote
Court-Qualified Trial Testimony in the US and Canada
Dr. Breggin’s history of testifying in court as a psychiatrist is much longer, however, dating back to the 1960s. In addition to this list of cases where he actually testified in court, there is a greater number which have been settled, including product liability cases against drug companies. Some of these are described at the beginning of this Legal Page in A Review of Dr. Breggin’s Medical Expert Experiences.Go to Complete List of Trial Testimony 1986 to Present
The following is excerpted and slightly revised from a longer article by Dr. Breggin on the history of his reform work in stopping the return of lobotomy and psychosurgery in the 1970s and then in stopping the racist federal violence initiative in the 1980s. These events are described in greater detail in Peter and Ginger Breggin, The War Against Children of Color (1998). Legal and political aspects of the antipsychosurgery campaign are also described in a law review article by Peter Breggin, “Psychosurgery for Political Purposes” (1975). Also see the sections on Racism and on Psychosurgery.
Originally published in Journal of African American Men 1:No. 3, 3-22. Winter 1995/96 under the title, “Campaigns Against Racist Federal Programs by the Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology” by Peter R. Breggin, M.D.
In 1972 the State of Michigan and the Lafayette Clinic of Wayne State University began planning an experimental psychosurgery program for the control of violence, using “voluntary” inmates of the state hospital system. Gabe Kaimowitz, at the time a Michigan Legal Services lawyer, heard about the upcoming medical event, and intervened in the court on behalf of “John Doe” and two-dozen other state psychiatric inmates scheduled for eventual enrollment in the experimental program.
Comparing Blacks to Bulls
Ernst Rodin was the chief neurologist and the moving force behind the Lafayette Clinic’s psychosurgery project. In 1972, Rodin wrote a lengthy speech describing psychosurgery and castration as fitting treatment for some of the violent behavior displayed in the riots that had raged in his city of Detroit. Rodin voiced doubts about doing psychosurgery without sterilization, because with psychosurgery alone “the now hopefully more placid dullard can inseminate other equally dull young females to produce further dull and aggressive offspring.”
Rodin argued that children of limited intelligence tend to become violent when they are treated as equals. He wanted them brought up in an “authoritarian life style,” and declared that many of them, like aggressive bulls, should be turned into docile oxen by means of castration. In the neurologist’s own words, it was time to “get down to cold-blooded medical research dealing with individuals rather than masses.”
Kaimowitz invited me to testify as his medical expert and during two days on the stand, I gave a history of state mental hospitals and psychosurgery. I wanted the three judges to understand that state mental hospitals are similar to Nazi concentration camps in how they suppress and humiliate their involuntary inmates; and I wanted to suggest the applicability of the Nuremberg Code.
The Nuremberg Code was originally written into the final opinion of the judges at the first War Crimes Tribunals in postwar Germany. It consists of ten principles for “permissible medical experiments.” The first principle states in part that the human subject “should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion” (Trials of War Criminals, 1946-1949, pp. 181-182).
The Nuremberg Code meant that Jewish inmates of concentration camps were not actually volunteers when they seemingly agreed to participate in medical experiments, such as being frozen in ice water. If they did acquiesce to these experiments, their consent was coerced by fear of other worse alternatives, such as torture or death in the gas chambers.
After hearing a spectrum of witnesses, the three judges agreed with the substance of my testimony, including the devastating effects of the most modern psychosurgery. Their official opinion cited the Nuremberg Code and used it as one reason for prohibiting consent to psychosurgery in the state mental hospitals of Michigan. The judges found that “involuntarily confined patients cannot reason as equals with doctors and administrators over whether they should undergo psychosurgery.” They declared that under First Amendment freedoms the “government has no power or right to control men’s minds, thoughts, and expressions. If the First Amendment protects the freedom to express ideas, it necessarily follows that it must protect the freedom to generate ideas.” The judges followed my testimony closely in describing how psychosurgery impairs mental and emotional functioning.
The opinion was never appealed and stands to this day. It continues to inhibit the performance of psychosurgery throughout the country, especially in state mental hospitals, the VA and prisons. Some psychosurgery continues in medical centers such as Harvard and Brown.
As described in The War Against Children of Color, there are contemporary attempts to revive lobotomy and other forms of psychosurgery, although none of the advocates now dare tie their work to political aims. What keeps advocates of psychosurgery from proceeding ahead full-throttle? Is it their own scientific caution or ethical concerns? In Psychosurgery (1992), Rodgers quotes Donlin Long, the Johns Hopkins director of neurosurgery:
“You’d also need an institutional commitment to absolutely pristine science and the guts to tell the Peter Breggins of the world to stuff it,” he [Long] added, referring to psychiatrist Peter Breggin’s lifelong battle to ban psychiatric surgery.
Further Discussion of Various Lawsuits
On February 11, 2014 a Chicago jury awarded $1.5 million to an autistic child who developed a severe case of tardive dyskinesia and tardive akathisia while being treated by psychiatrists with Risperdal and then Zyprexa between 2002 and 2007. The drug-induced disorder was diagnosed when he was fifteen years old and by then had become disabling and irreversible. Dr. Breggin was the psychiatric expert for the case and Francis P. Morrissey was the attorney.
In late November 2012 a jury in the Supreme Court of the State of New York awarded $1.5 million malpractice verdict to the family of a man who committed suicide while taking psychiatric drugs, including antdepressants (read more). Dr. Breggin was the medical expert for the plaintiffs.
A recent precedent-setting case in Canada was based on Dr. Breggin’s testimony and written report. On September 16, 2011 in Winnipeg, a Provincial judge cited Dr. Breggin’s testimony in concluding that Prozac caused a sixteen-year-old boy to knife a friend to death (read more). Although Dr. Breggin has been an expert in many other criminal, malpractice and product liability cases in which judges have accepted his opinion that antidepressants can cause suicide or violence, this is the first time in North America that any judge has specifically concluded that an antidepressant was the direct cause of a murder.
Recently Dr. Breggin was the medical expert in the first psychosurgery and the first electroshock malpractice suits ever won in court. In 2001-2002, he participated as a medical expert in a California lawsuit whose resolution was associated with a new label warning for Paxil concerning withdrawal effects. Dr. Breggin has been a medical expert in many courtroom victories for individuals injured by medications, including numerous cases of tardive dyskinesia caused by neuroleptic drugs.
In the 1990s, Dr. Breggin was chosen to be the medical and scientific expert for nearly 200 combined Prozac product liability suits against Eli Lilly and Company. This resulted in his testifying in the infamous Wesbecker case in which the manufacturer, Eli Lilly, fixed the trial (see below). Later Dr. Breggin would become an expert in many other product liability suits involving antidepressants, stimulants, tranquilizers and antipsychotic drugs, nearly all of which were settled. As an expert in these product liability suits, the courts have empowered Dr. Breggin to examine secret company records concerning the development and marketing of their drugs. This unique experience of looking inside otherwise hidden drug company files has provided him a unique source of information and a special understanding of drug company activities that he has used in his legal work and documented in many publications, including Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry (2008) and Medication Madness (2008).
Among his proudest achievements, in the early 1970s Dr. Breggin was the medical expert in the famous Kaimowitz case that stopped lobotomy and psychosurgery in America’s state mental hospitals. More recently he was the psychiatric expert in a psychosurgery case against the Cleveland Clinic that resulted in a huge verdict for the injured woman and caused the clinic to stop doing any further psychosurgery. Dr. Breggin was also the medical expert in the only electroshock malpractice suit to be won by the plaintiffs.
Some of Dr. Breggin’s most successful legal work has involved testimony in tardive dyskinesia malpractice suits involving this usually irreversible abnormal movement disorder commonly caused by antipsychotic or neuroleptic drugs. In all but one of the many TD trials in which he has participated in the United States and Canada, the injured patient has won a favorable verdict. The one exception ended in a hung jury. He has also been involved in tardive dyskinesia cases with multi-million dollar settlements without going to trial in both the United States and Canada.
Dr. Breggin continues with his both his clinical practice and his medical expert work.
Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is a movement disorder caused by neuroleptic (antipsychotic) drugs, both the older ones such as Thorazine and Haldol and also the newer ones, such as Zyprexa, Risperdal, Geodon, Abilify and Seroquel. Although drug advocates often claim that the newer or atypical antipsychotic drugs cause TD at very low rate, this is simply untrue.
Dr. Breggin has been consulted in dozens of cases involving the newer antipsychotic drugs including Ability, Seroquel, Zyprexa and Risperdal. The great majority of Dr. Breggin’s cases are settled out of court, sometimes for very large awards that have been justified by the extreme harm done to the victim. He has also been the expert in many cases that have been won in trial, including one in Canada and one in Alaska. Dr. Breggin has a particular concern about TD and the anguish and disability it inflicts on millions of patients around the world.
Due to the escalating use of these drugs in childhood, Dr. Breggin has increasingly focused on the vast numbers of children with TD. Dr. Breggin has already personally evaluated dozens of cases of TD in children caused by Risperdal, as well as many other cases caused by other drugs like Zyprexa, Abilify and Seroquel.
Dr. Breggin has testified in cases in which one parent has attempted to stop the other parent or the state from drugging a child with antipsychotic drugs, sometimes on the basis that the child was already developing a previously undiagnosed case of tardive dyskinesia. In some cases, Dr. Breggin has been authorized by the courts to supervise the child’s withdrawal from the drugs long distance with the help of local health professionals.
SSRI antidepressant product liability suits
Dr. Breggin has been an expert for the plaintiffs in dozens of product liability suits surrounding SSRI antidepressants as well as stimulants, benzodiazepines and neuroleptics. Among the SSRI suits, many have been settled to satisfaction of the plaintiffs and only one, the Wesbecker case, has gone to court. The drug company Eli Lilly fixed the 1994 Wesbecker case and the trial judge later reversed the verdict. Following the Wesbecker case, the drug companies have settled most of Dr. Breggin’s SSRI antidepressant cases without going to trial.
Dr. Breggin’s two most recent books, Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry (second edition, 2008) and Medication Madness (2008) describe many of these cases in greater detail than is available here, including detailed analyses of the Wesbecker case: Medication Madness is an especially detailed resource. Dr. Breggin has also published numerous peer-reviewed articles on antidepressants and antidepressant-induced violence, suicide and crime, all of which are available on this website.
Wesbecker (Fentress) product liability case against Eli lilly ( makers of Prozac ® )
When Dr. Breggin was selected to be the scientific and medical expert for the nearly 200 combined Prozac-related cases brought against the manufacturer, Eli Lilly and Company (makers of Prozac®), he was asked to evaluate for the plaintiffs the scientific basis for the claim that Prozac was causing violence and suicide, and also to evaluate the drug company’s potential negligence in the development and marketing of Prozac, including any attempts to hide the risk of Prozac-induced suicide and violence. He was also asked to evaluate individual cases for their merit.
In 1994 Dr. Breggin testified in the first Prozac case to go to trial, the Wesbecker case.
Joseph Wesbecker was on Prozac in September 1989 when he walked into his workplace, an Indianapolis printing plant, shot dead eight colleagues, wounded 12 others, and killed himself. Survivors and relatives of the dead took Lilly to court in 1994. They claimed that Wesbecker’s violence was due to Prozac.
In the process of serving as the expert medical witness in this case, Dr. Breggin evaluated and testified about a number of key documents (all of which are available below as PDFs). At first, the trial was apparently won by Eli Lilly — the jury found that Prozac was not at fault –but the judge later determined that the trial had been rigged; Eli Lilly had paid the plaintiffs to throw the trial by withholding damaging evidence against the company. Dr. Breggin describes his participation in this dramatic case in detail in his latest book, Medication Madness (July 2008).
For many years after the fixed trial, plaintiffs, attorneys and even the FDA remained unaware of many of the documents Breggin had discovered and/or evaluated. Then in 2004, an anonymous individual sent the documents to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), who published an article about them and also distributed them. When Eli Lilly forced the BMJ to apologize for suggesting that the documents had “disappeared” while in Eli Lilly’s care, Breggin wrote an unpublished letter to BMJ explaining how the documents had indeed disappeared (available below). Though criticizing BMJ for saying that the company had in effect hidden the smoking guns, Eli Lilly never actually contested the allegations surrounding the documents — that the drug company had withheld evidence that Prozac caused suicide.
Paxil® Withdrawal Suit Resolved
A California lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) charged the drug company with failing to warn the public about the dangers of Paxil withdrawal. Dr. Breggin was the medical consultant to the case, which was brought on behalf of the citizens of California.
Lacuzong Paxil suicide case against GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)
The Lacuzong product liability case was brought by the widow of a man who drowned himself and his two young children in a tub three days after starting Paxil. The case was “resolved” to the satisfaction of the plaintiff and the defendant denied all allegations. This section contains Dr. Breggin’s product liability report in the Lacuzong case, which was originally sealed by the court and then made available in a new case in which Dr. Breggin was also an expert, Moffett v. GlaxoSmithKline, the United States District Court for the South District of Mississippi. That case was also resolved to the satisfaction of the plaintiffs with GSK denying all the allegations.
This section contains Dr. Breggin’s original detailed report in the Lacuzong case describing alleged negligence by GSK in developing and marketing Paxil. Three of Dr. Breggin’s published scientific articles excerpt and analyze the data. Overall, the articles and reports in this section provide a rare insight into the issues raised and documented by a medical expert in a product liability suit against an antidepressant manufacturer.
SSRI antidepressant and Xanax criminal cases
Dr. Breggin has evaluated many cases of medication-induced criminal behavior, including bizarre robberies, violence and suicide. The most detailed information about several of these cases can be found in Medication Madness (July, 2008). Other cases are described in Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry, Second Edition (2008), The Antidepressant Fact Book (2001) and Talking Back to Prozac (with Ginger Breggin, 1004).
In attempting to exonerate individuals who have committed crimes under the influence of psychiatric medications, most states allow for a plea of involuntary intoxication on the grounds that the individual did not knowingly take a drug that could change his behavior for the worse. Dr. Breggin describes the application of this legal principle and illustrates it with numerous cases in Medication Madness (July, 2008).
Several times Dr. Breggin’s reports have resulted in reduced sentences without going to trial. In one of Dr. Breggin’s cases, a Virginia trial judge found a man not guilty of assaulting a police officer because of involuntary intoxication with multiple psychiatric drugs. This was the first such case in Virginia. In a few other hearings and trials, the judge or jury has reduced the sentence without exonerating the individual. For example, in Connecticut a judge allowed a plea bargain for a man accused of robbing banks on the grounds that he was involuntarily intoxicated on Xanax and Prozac. Both cases are described below.
For a few brief vignettes and an in-depth explanation concerning medication mechanisms of action in causing abnormal behavior, see Dr. Breggin’s article, “Intoxication anosognosia: The spellbinding effect of psychiatric drugs.”
Eli Lilly settles Zyprexa diabetes cases for $690 million
On June 15, 2005, Eli Lilly & Co., the manufacturer of the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa®, settled an estimated 8,000 lawsuits pending in the United States concerning its alleged failure to warn about the risk of Zyprexa causing diabetes. The company agreed to pay $690 million but denied any wrongdoing. Dr. Breggin was consulted as a medical expert in several of the cases.
Dr. Breggin Medical Expert in First Ever Electroshock Malpractice Victory
In June 2005 in Columbia, South Carolina, a jury awarded $635,000 in a malpractice suit against a psychiatrist who referred a patient for electroshock treatment. Dr. Breggin was the medical expert in the case.
Reynolds v. Novartis (makers of Ritalin®)
Dr. Breggin acted as the medical consultant for the Ritalin product liability suit, Reynolds v. Novartis, and wrote an affidavit for the case (see below).
In addition to this single product liability case, Dr. Breggin also became the initial medical expert for the first in a series of highly publicized Ritalin class action suits and his work provided some of the basis for several other class action suits that followed. However, after initially consulting on the first class action suit, Dr. Breggin took no further active role in any of the Ritalin class action suits, all of which were eventually dismissed by the courts. Dr. Breggin is unaware of any successful Ritalin product liability or class action suits.
Menninger Clinic case
In mid-December 2001, a jury found the Menninger Clinic negligent in the death of an individual who was placed in a clinical trial for an experimental neuroleptic (antipsychotic drug). Psychiatrist Peter R. Breggin, M.D. was the medical expert for the plaintiffs.
Cleveland Clinic Psychosurgery Case
On June 10, 2002, a jury unanimously found the Cleveland Clinic negligent in causing permanent, disabling brain damage to a woman by performing experimental psychosurgery on her without informed consent. In total they awarded $7.5 million in damages. Dr. Breggin testified extensively at the trial.
The landmark Kaimowitz trial against psychosurgery
The following is excerpted and slightly revised from a longer article by Dr. Breggin on the history of his reform work in stopping the return of lobotomy and psychosurgery in the 1970s and then in stopping the racist federal violence initiative in the 1980s. These events are described in greater detail in Peter and Ginger Breggin, The War Against Children of Color (1998). Legal and political aspects of the antipsychosurgery campaign are also described in a law review article by Peter Breggin, “Psychosurgery for Political Purposes” (1975). Also see the Special Topics sections on Psychosurgery and Psychiatry and Racial Politics.