Mother of Florida Autistic Boy Claims Psychiatric Drug Overdose Led to Death


Psychiatric Drug Overdose Led to Autistic Child's DeathLawsuit Blames Doctor’s Prescription of Psychotropic Cocktail, Lack of Oversight

MIAMI, May 20 /PRNewswire/ — The mother of a 12-year-old autistic boy who died while in the care of a psychiatrist at a group home has filed a wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit claiming overmedication and improper care led to the boy’s death.

The lawsuit was filed in Miami-Dade circuit court Tuesday by the boy’s mother, Martha Quesada. In it, she alleges Denis Maltez died in 2007 after receiving an overdose of anti-psychotic drugs.

“This is a clear case of a 12-year-child who perished because he was given a lethal combination of off-label, dangerous, anti-psychotic drugs to control his behavior without appropriate consent, administration and supervision,” said Howard Talenfeld, Quesada’s attorney and partner with Fort Lauderdale law firm, Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky & Abate, P.A., in Fort Lauderdale. Partner Maria Abate is co-counsel on the case.

“Tragically, this case is one of many cases where foster children and developmentally disabled children are given powerful drug to control their behavior instead of utilizing appropriate behavioral interventions,” Talenfeld said. “This is an important first step in seeking remedy for Ms. Quesada’s loss, and raising awareness of the cavalier prescription, administration of medications to control behavior with little regard for possible counter-indications or devastating results.”

At the time of his death on May 23, 2007, Denis was under the care of psychiatrist, Dr. Steven L. Kaplan, at the former Rainbow Ranch group home, owned and operated by David Glatt. Both are named in the lawsuit.

The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner found that Denis died of Central Serotonergic Syndrome. This resulted from “the co-administration of multiple psychotropic medications with no monitoring or supervision,” the lawsuit claims. The drugs stimulated overproduction of serotonin – a naturally occurring chemical that help regulate a person’s mood. This proved lethal, the suit claims. Denis, who had severe autism, died in a van after being restrained by group home staff.

The lawsuit claims Glatt replaced Denis’s regular visits to Jackson Memorial Hospital with on-site care by Dr. Kaplan without Quesada’s consent. During Denis’s time at the facility, Kaplan only visited him twice. Kaplan prescribed a regimen of medications described “as chemical restraints to control Denis’s behavior.” Those included Depakote, an anti-seizure drug used for mood-stabilization; the tranquilizer Clonazepam; and anti-psychotics, Seroquel and Zyprexa. Several of the drugs lack Food and Drug Administration approval for use on children. They also warn of possible side-effects.

Quesada’s lawsuit comes a month after the death of Gabriel Myers. The 7-year-old foster child had been prescribed a variety of mental health drugs, and later hanged himself. The use of psychiatric medications on Florida foster children now is being studied by the state Department of Children and Families.

Photo by Amanda M Hatfield

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Melissa is the mother of two children on the autism spectrum and strives to provide information about all aspects of autism through her blog, The Autism Education Site. Follow Melissa on Twitter. Like me on Facebook.

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