Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Ends in $1.9 Million Judgment for Maine Woman

Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Ends in $1.9 Million Judgment for Maine WomanA jury in Bangor, Maine, delivered a 9-0 verdict recently, finding a Jonesport physician guilty of prescribing a near-lethal dose of methadone to a Corinth woman, the Bangor Daily News reports.

According to the media outlet, the suit was filed on behalf of Charlene Whalen, who was awarded nearly $2 million in the medical malpractice lawsuit.

"Any case with a verdict like that is beneficial because it will make doctors more careful, patients safer, and benefit the community overall in safe prescribing," said Whalen's attorney. "Hopefully the community will be safer now than it was before."

The media outlet states that Whalen, 59, filed the lawsuit against Dr. Steven Weisberger in 2009, alleging the doctor overprescribed her methadone for pain in her lower back. Weisberger's recommended dose allegedly caused Whalen to stop breathing in her sleep, which resulted in oxygen deprivation in her brain and ensuing damage to her brain cells.

Whalen's medical malpractice lawyer stated he was not surprised by the verdict.

"There were a lot of complex issues in this case that took awhile to get everyone’s head around, but once they understood it, it was pretty clear that there was a breach in the standard of care," he said.

According to the news source, Whalen was referred by her primary care physician in 2006 to Weisberger, who practices family medicine at Arnold Memorial Medical Center in Jonesport. Whalen was seeking relief from intense back pain, and chose Prolotherapy – a procedure that induces intentional swelling that is believed to bring about the healing process.

However, Whalen says her back pain only worsened, and it eventually forced her to take a leave of absence from her job with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. She was then prescribed what the jurors were told was eight times the normal amount of methadone, and two days after taking the medication, allegedly stopped breathing in her sleep around midnight.

Bob Ring, Whalen's fiance, said he woke her at that time, but after 20 minutes of shallow breathing, her brain had been deprived of necessary oxygen. This resulted in a condition that prohibits Whalen from performing daily and other simple functions, the news source stated.

According to the National Library of Medicine, methadone, a powerful painkiller, comes with a warning label that the drug can cause slowed breathing and irregular heartbeat, which can result in brain injuries or death.