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Wisconsin parents cannot sue for medical malpractice of adult child

Losing a child must be one of the most difficult experiences that a person can endure. When a death may have been prevented, the pain is even more pronounced. When a young man recently died due to drug toxicity, his parents were outraged and sought to file a medical malpractice suit. However, they soon learned that in Wisconsin, parents of an adult child are unable to sue for medical malpractice. This case speaks to the complexities of malpractice law, and the need to gain full comprehension of all applicable statutes before moving forward with a malpractice claim.

This young man suffered a range of psychological problems for which he went through extensive counseling and psychiatric hospitalization. He began abusing the prescription drug oxycodone, and eventually decided to go into a methadone treatment program. Before long, he became addicted to methadone, which led to three months in an inpatient rehab facility to wean him off of the synthetic drug.

By last year, all seemed well. However, in early August 2011 he approached a health clinic and asked to be placed back on methadone. Even though he was not currently abusing drugs, the clinic began giving him a daily dose. A few days later, the young man became very ill and went to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed with a hiatal hernia.

His father reportedly took him to the methadone clinic for that day's dose, and was told that the clinic was trying to contact the hospital. He received his regular dose, but died later that day. The medical examiner determined that the young man died of aspiration pneumonia with sepsis, caused by respiratory depression, which was in turn caused by methadone toxicity. The methadone clinic denied having knowledge of the hospital visit just hours prior to his last dose. However, the family found his next appointment slip with 'bring Luther ER paperwork' written in.

In Wisconsin, parents of minor children can pursue a lawsuit for loss of society and companionship if their child dies as a result of medical malpractice. However, no such recourse is available to parents once their child becomes an adult. Medical malpractice is a very complex area of law, and when injury or loss of life occurs, it is imperative that victims and their families become fully aware of their rights under the law.

Source: Superior Telegram, "Couple dismayed by malpractice law preventing parents from suing over adult son's death," Tom Giffey, Aug. 20, 2012

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