Can a doctor be liable for prescribing medication that leads to suicide?
Millions of fans mourned when famed musician Chris Cornell committed suicide in 2017. Cornell was best known as lead vocalist in the rock bands Soundgarden and Audioslave. In May of 2017, Cornell was found unconscious in the bathroom of his hotel room at the MGM Grand, where he had just performed a show. The singer was found lying on the floor with an exercise band around his neck. Coroners ruled his death a suicide by hanging. However, soon after his death, family members and his attorney raised questions as to whether prescription medication may have led to Cornell’s actions.
A toxicology report conducted after Cornell’s death revealed the presence of the drug Ativan. Further, Vicky Cornell, Chris’ wife, reported speaking to him after the show and noticing that he was slurring his words and acting strange. He said he had taken Ativan. With questions swirling as to the possibility that the prescription medication led to the suicide, Vicky Cornell filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor who prescribed heavy doses of this dangerous drug.
Mind-altering Drugs Prescribed Despite History of Substance Abuse
The lawsuit filed by Vicky Cornell against Dr. Robert Koblin alleges that the physician prescribed Cornell over 940 doses of Ativan in just a year and eight-month period. Additionally, the doctor prescribed Oxycodone. Both substances have a mind-altering effect that Cornell’s widow believes impaired his judgement and caused him to engage in the impulsive behavior that cost him his life. Further, according to Cornell, the drugs were prescribed despite the doctor’s knowledge of Chris Cornell’s history of substance abuse.
Litigation is still pending in the Cornell lawsuit, and the lawsuit raises several important issues. Today, many doctors prescribe narcotics, depression medication, and anti-anxiety drugs in abundance. These drugs have been shown to have major effects on patients’ mental states. It is hard to tell which patients will have a positive effect and which, like Cornell, may become suicidal at least in part due to the drugs. Should prescribing doctors be liable when suicides stem from prescriptions? Or should drug makers bear a degree of responsibility? More courts nationwide are being forced to answer such questions, and Cornell’s lawsuit may prove important to the field.