If untreated, his schizophrenia brought on vivid hallucinations. But the 55-year-old man was able to stave off the frightening figments of his imagination with daily doses of the powerful anti-psychotic medication Clozapine.
For more than a decade, Clozapine helped him live free of the hallucinations and build a life with his siblings. But when the county’s mental health service canceled his medication on Christmas Eve of 2014, events were put into motion that eventually culminated in his fiery suicide a few months later, a medical malpractice lawsuit alleges.
The man lived far north of San Antonio in Wichita, Kansas.
The Sedgwick County mental health service, Comcare, terminated his Clozapine treatments in late 2014 because he had missed several doctors’ appointments. Though he was briefly restarted on the drug by his psychiatrist in early 2015, he was shifted to “a lesser-effective drug called Seroquel,” a trial brief states.
By the time of his suicide, he was completely off of Clozapine and receiving only a “very low, non-therapeutic dose” of Seroquel.
His family was increasingly worried about his mental state – he was refusing to let anyone into his home – and repeatedly called Comcare and tried to contact the psychiatrist. But on April 23, he drove 175 miles south to the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma. He “rammed his car through the security gate; doused himself in lighter fluid; and burned alive,” according to the lawsuit filed by his estate.
The suit blames the county mental health program and his psychiatrist for negligence.
The defendants state that the man died because of his own acts and not because of alleged negligence by them.
The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial this week.
While we do not know how it will be resolved, we know that it is important for victims of medical malpractice to speak to an attorney about deadlines for filing a claim so that they are not denied full compensation for damages.