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Can a Doctor Lose His or Her License When a Patient Commits Suicide?

Survivors of Suicide Patient Sue Physician for Malpractice

The Florida Supreme Court has just ruled that the survivors of a patient who commits suicide can sue the deceased patient’s physician for medical malpractice, according to MedScape. In the case before the court, the doctor prescribed a new antidepressant medicine to a patient who complained of side effects to her old medication. The day after the patient started her new medication, she hung herself. Lawyers for the family have argued that the doctor did not follow the standard of care in prescribing the new antidepressant.

Supreme Court Rules Dr. Chirillo’s Malpractice Trial Must Go Forward

The patient, Jacqueline Granicz, had been taking the antidepressant medication venlafaxine, but stopped taking the drug in 2008. She came to Dr. Joseph Chirillo, Jr. in Englewood with complaints of side effects from the medication, including sleeplessness, indigestion, and mental strain. Dr. Chirillo wrote Granicz a prescription for a different antidepressant, escitalopram, and told her she could pick up a sample that day. Granicz picked up the sample drugs the same day and hanged herself the following day. Lawyers for Granicz’ family argued that Dr. Chirillo should have referred Granicz to a mental health specialist and should have done more research on escitalopram, which can cause suicidal ideations in some patients, according to The Tampa Bay Business Journal.

The Second District Court of Appeals threw out the medical malpractice lawsuit, arguing that Dr. Chirillo was not in control of Granicz when she committed suicide. The Supreme Court, however, reversed the decision to grant summary judgment to the physician, reasoning that there was a legitimate question of whether Dr. Chirillo followed the standard of care in treating Granicz.

Multiple Malpractice Leads to Loss of License

A court of law evaluates allegations of medical malpractice by asking whether or not the doctor practiced in accordance with professional standards of care for medical professionals. This means that the doctor must behave in a way that other medical professionals would find reasonable. This standard includes following all applicable laws and regulations, as well as following accepted professional guidelines. Although losing a medical malpractice lawsuit does not itself lead automatically to loss of license to practice medicine, gross malpractice (intentional or reckless malpractice) can lead to losing your license. Also, repeated malpractice can also lead to losing your license to practice.

Dr. Chirillo Likely Will Not Lose his License

How does all this apply to Dr. Chirillo’s case? The Supreme Court has not ruled that Dr. Chirillo is liable for medical malpractice: they just ruled that there needs to be a trial to determine if he is liable. More than likely, Dr. Chirillo’s medical malpractice insurer will reach a negotiated settlement with the survivors of Ms. Granicz. But even if a jury decides that Dr. Chirillo is liable for malpractice, that does not mean he will lose his license. None of the facts seem to indicate that Dr. Chirillo intentionally prescribed the wrong medicine to Granicz. If Dr. Chirillo has not previously been liable for malpractice, it is unlikely that the Florida Board of Medicine will discipline him in this case.

Get Legal Help

If you are involved in a professional licensure proceeding, you need expert legal assistance. Get in touch with experienced licensing attorney, Amie K. Dilla at Dilla Employment Law in Clearwater to get the representation you need.

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