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Mother’s Suit Seeks Justice for Autistic Son Killed by ‘Psychotropic Cocktail’

May 21st, 2009   No Comments   Damage Claims, Psychotropic
Denis Martez and mother, Martha Quesada.

Denis Martez and mother, Martha Quesada.

Martha Quesada shed tears but was the poignant focal point of a press conference this week as she discussed her demands for justice for the death of her 12-year-old autistic son, Denis Martez.

His cause of death, according to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner: Central Serotonergic Syndrome. This resulted from “the co-administration of multiple psychotropic medications with no monitoring or supervision,” the lawsuit claims.

“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 Elena 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.”

As news station WSVN reported, Talenfeld said “they provided Denis with a lethal dose of prescription medication that eventually killed him.”  [insert video link]

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. 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. All are named in the lawsuit.

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,” the suit claims. 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 two years after her son’s death, and 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.

As Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon told CBS 4, “What we have to do is learn from this, as the Agency for Persons with Disabilities has to do,  so that we’re aggressive not only in the licensing of facilities but also in a case when it goes to the hotline, particularly when it’s related to psychotropics that we use the same kind of care a parent would use.”  [insert video link]

CBS 4 went on to report that Quesada believes “justice for her will be changing the system so no child will ever meet Denis’ end.”

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