Peter R. Breggin MD is the Psychiatric Expert
In one of the largest awards of its kind in an antidepressant-related suicide case, on September 15, 2016, a jury awarded $11.9 million to the family of Mumun Barbaros who killed himself in jail after a psychiatrist restarted him on Paxil (paroxetine). The defendant was PrimeCare and several of its practitioners and staff who provided services at the jail. The jurors also concluded that the company and most of the defendants acted with deliberate indifference to Mr. Barbaros’ medical needs (see media reports 1, 2, 3).
Psychiatrist Peter R. Breggin MD testified about the negligence and callous indifference of the psychiatrist and the psychologist who treated Mr. Barbaros. In addition, he testified about causation in respect to the actions of the psychologist and psychiatrist, as well as the nursing staff and administration. The verdict exemplifies the growing awareness of the courts and the public concerning the potential harm from psychiatric drugs, including medication-driven violence and suicide. It confirms Dr. Breggin’s decades-long educational and scientific efforts to enlighten society about these and other risks from taking psychiatric drugs.
Dr. Breggin testified that restarting the patient on his regular dose of Paxil 30 mg, despite a hiatus of least four days without the medication, was a direct cause of the suicide later on the same day. Dr. Breggin explained that the patient had difficulty several years earlier when starting the medication, even though the initial dose was only 10 mg dose. Restarting him on Paxil 30 mg, when most of the drug was out of his system, caused akathisia (agitation with hyperactivity) and suicide. He also found that the doctor and the psychologist were negligent in several other ways, including their failure to evaluate the patient and to order careful monitoring.
Paxil (paroxetine) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant. All antidepressants can cause suicidal and homicidal behavior, especially those that routinely cause stimulation or activation, including akathisia, agitation, insomnia, disinhibition, emotional lability, hypomania, and mania, and a general worsening of the patient’s condition. Of all the antidepressants, Paxil was the only one to show a statistically significant association with suicide in depressed adults in the short and deeply flawed clinical trials used for FDA approval of the drug. Dr. Breggin has written about the subject of medication-induced suicide in his book, Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide and Crime, as well as in other books and numerous scientific articles available on www.breggin.com.
Dr. Breggin bolstered his testimony with numerous scientific citations. The judge qualified Dr. Breggin as an expert in psychiatry, psychopharmacology and the specific drug Paxil.
In a lengthy trial, other experts testified concerning the nursing care and administrative policies of the healthcare provider, as well as the violent method of Mr. Barbaros death by gagging himself.
The jury award included $2.8 million for negligence, $1.06 million for federal deliberate indifference and $8 million for punitive damages.
The attorney for the plaintiff was Brian Chacker of Philadelphia. The case is Ponzini et al. v. Monroe County et al., case number 3:11-cv-00413, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.