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Mother Will Sue VA Doctors after Marine Son’s Suicide

Often, medical malpractice takes the form of a botched surgery, a mistaken diagnosis, or a failure to prescribe appropriate medication. In some cases, however, doctors commit medical malpractice by continuing a course of prescriptions, despite warning signs. In the case of U.S. Marine Janos “Johnny” Lutz, his family seeks to turn his tragedy into an opportunity for change.

PTSD and Preventable Death

During his two tours in Afghanistan, Johnny Lutz dealt with the death of his best friend and the news of his father’s potential deportation from their Florida home. When he returned, he was wracked with anxiety, struck with depression, and suffered from nightmares and “survivor’s guilt.” He was diagnosed with PTSD and prescribed an anti-anxiety medication, Klonopin. The first time he was provided with the drug, Johnny Lutz attempted suicide. A side effect of Klonopin is to induce suicidal thoughts, but doctors once again prescribed the medication, without advising him of the potential side effect.

Although the doctors did not limit his dosage of the medication, Johnny Lutz sought the assistance of his mother, Janine Lutz, in limiting the dosage available to him at any one time. He had discussed his struggles with potential suicide, and advised his doctors that his mother was helping him control his dosage. Despite this, the Veterans Affairs doctors prescribed a third dose of Klonopin, disrupting the planned dosage schedule and providing him with additional pills. Eight days after the prescription, Johnny Lutz committed suicide using the Klonopin. The note he left stated, in part: “I’m sorry. I am happier now.”

Providing Support to Former Servicemen

Janine Lutz has sent the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs a letter of intent to file suit for medical malpractice, on the basis that her son was prescribed inappropriate medication based on his medical history, and the fact that he had told doctors that he struggled with suicide. Janine Lutz indicated the doctors’ failure to closely monitor her son’s condition, instead of continuing a “check-in-the-box method.” She recommended that doctors avoid relying on medication, and instead to encourage PTSD sufferers to seek support from family and friends.

Janine Lutz has also started the LCPL Janos V. Lutz “Live to Tell” Foundation, a non-profit that seeks to help servicemen re-integrate into society and seek “Post-Traumatic Growth.” Meanwhile, in Congress, lawmakers were recently considering passage of a bill that would address veteran suicide rates. Under the bill, an independent committee would review the VA’s response to suicide rates, and recommend changes to suicide prevention programs. A new website would provide veterans with resources to address suicidal thoughts. However, the bill was blocked from unanimous passage by an outgoing senator’s objection. The bill may be reconsidered in the next session.

If you or a loved one has suffered the effects of poor health monitoring, a missed diagnosis, or other medical malpractice, you do not have to face the situation alone. Experienced Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney Scott Newmark can help you understand your rights and pursue a claim against any negligent doctor.

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