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Utah Family Says Medication Contributed to Mother’s Murder

David W. Hodges
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Partner at Kennedy Hodges LLP practicing pharmacy error, medical malpractice and personal injury law
Posted on Mar 13, 2012
The Utah Supreme Court has ruled that family members should be considered when prescribing drugs to patients after a depression medication mistake led an unstable patient to murder. 

The ruling was a response to the murder of Kristy Ragsdale, who was shot to death by her heavily medicated husband in 2008. The Ragsdale’s two children filed suit against their father’s health care providers, claiming that the medications David Ragsdale was prescribed contributed to their mother’s death.

The Ragsdale children were two and four years old when David Ragsdale gunned Kristy down in the parking lot of the LDS Church in Lehi during Sunday services. The attack came soon after 30-year-old Kristy had filed a restraining order against her husband; David Ragsdale was convicted of first-degree murder.

Not long after David Ragsdale was sent to prison, a conservator filed suit on behalf of the Ragsdale children against nurse practitioner Trina West, David’s primary care provider, and consulting physician Dr. Hugo Rodier for prescribing antidepressants that carried known risks of psychiatric complications.

The medical community had argued against the case before the court in November, saying that doctors cannot be sued for pharmaceutical malpractice by third parties. Third District Judge Denise Lindberg agreed and dismissed the case in February 2011 on the basis that the children had no case because they were not the patients. 

However, attorneys for the Ragsdale children persevered. The children and their conservator, William Jeffs, appealed and the decision was reversed. Health care providers are now duty-bound to consider how medication options may affect a patient’s family before prescribing.

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